Over 4.1 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Afghanistan have been adversely affected by COVID-19 as the country faces a humanitarian crisis along with enduring conflict, Amnesty International said on Wednesday.
IDPs in Afghanistan struggle with access to employment opportunities, food, shelter and healthcare. Moreover, both IDPs and refugees alike, are affected by the slow reintegration process.
Those living in camps have little access to essential services like drinking water or health care facilities and live in dire poverty, Amnesty said.
“Inadequate housing, food insecurity, insufficient access to sanitation and an overall lack of protection further complicates the well-being of affected families and violate their human rights. And make no mistake, COVID-19 has made the situation much worse,” the report notes.
With over 116,302 people displaced by conflict in 2020 so far according to the United Nations, an overwhelming 80% are women and children.
A man interviewed in the Chaman-e Babrak camp in Kabul said the lockdown had been particularly hard, with food scarcity in the camp since the government distributed rations only in the first two weeks.
He pointed that it was “impossible” to protect themselves from COVID-19 due to the living conditions in the camp.
“How can we keep social distancing if all 8 people are living in one room which is made of mud, pole and plastic sheets with a very small light and no ventilation? How can we wash our hands for 20 seconds if we can’t find water to drink and have to buy 25 litres of water for 15 Afghani each ($0.20)? How can we quarantine someone with the signs of coronavirus if we only have one room? How can we get tested if we do not have the money to travel to the hospitals where they would perform a free coronavirus test?” he told Amnesty.
This water shortage was also noted in the Surkh Diwar IDPs settlement in Nangarhar.
“We have not had water during the pandemic, and we had to travel long distances to get water from people’s houses or buy it from the tankers… Most women had problem accessing clean water or hygiene but for women and girls with disabilities, it was even worse,” a resident at the camp told the rights organisation.
Another resident said the usual practice at the camp was to wait till someone was seriously ill, and only then go to the hospital. While the public hospital provides free service, they find it difficult to pay for the transportation to get to the city.
“Now it’s all in God’s hand – who recovers and who dies,” the woman told Amnesty since it was difficult to get tested.
“We are living with nothing honestly, we don’t have work, we don’t have money and we don’t have anywhere to live. Only God knows how difficult our situation is,” a 60-year-old man told Amnesty.
He said they had not received any assistance in the camp since the lockdown and he had to borrow goods and foods to feed his family, leaving him $600 in debt.
Amnesty has requested the Afghan government to give full protections and fulfil the human rights of IDPs who continue to live in poverty with little access to essential services.