Integrity Watch Afghanistan said that the Afghan government and the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) need to take urgent steps to improve oversight and enhance support for health services necessary for COVID-19 treatment.
In a survey of 700 health facilities in 13 provinces from April to August, the transparency and accountability watchdog, found that places were often not following the procedures for screening of visitors for Coronavirus.
“The survey findings show that in April 2020, 40% of hospitals did not respect basic screening procedures,” said Ezatullah Adib, Head of Research at Integrity Watch. This included some larger hospitals, such as provincial and district hospitals in Herat and Kabul.
Adib added, “When the data was updated based on the information provided by the health centres management in July 2020, it showed that the failure to follow proper screening procedures at health facilities has increased to 48%.”
Shortages in the availability of personal protection equipment (PPE) and the necessary drugs and other medical equipment such as ventilators and oxygen balloons were also reported.
The survey found that most COVID-19 health facilities and district health centers had oxygen supply for two days, provincial hospitals had stock for four days and regional hospitals only one day.
Health facilities run out of masks and alcoholic solutions after three days, hats and aprons in two days and shoe-covers in 1 day at the country level.
“The survey shows that the MoPH lacks a reliable system to collect accurate, comprehensive and timely data to enable its leadership to make decisions to respond proportionately to the spread of COVID-19 throughout the country,” said Sayed Ikram Afzali, Executive Director of Integrity Watch.
They found that the government and the MoPH urgently need to improve their oversight and evidence-based decision making, enhance support for monitoring of health services by local communities and civil society organisations, and ensure that there is an adequate supply of medical equipment and medicines necessary for COVID-19 treatment and to properly prepare for a possible second wave of the virus.
The current data on Coronavirus infections and deaths used by the government is not reliable, said the watchdog.
While the Ministry has recorded 37,599 infected cases (as of Aug. 19, 2020), another survey by the government shows that up to 10 million people might have been infected.
Afzali warned that the Afghan government should reduce the risks and prepare for a possible second wave by prioritizing vulnerable areas as indicated by the survey conducted by Integrity Watch.
Integrity Watch called on the government to use the data and improve the effectiveness of its response to COVID-19, in enhancing health facilities preparedness and in introducing smart lockdown measures.