The 3 Million Hidden Victims of COVID-19 in Afghanistan

They had already lost their homes, communities and families to begin with but now the internally-displaced people in Afghanistan have been severely affected by the nationwide lockdown imposed by the government to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.

Their cramped living quarters offer no hopes of social distancing. With limited to no access to clean water and sanitation, they cannot continuously wash their hands. Severe disruptions in healthcare means if they fall sick, they probably will not have access to any medical services. A hand sanitizer is out of their monthly budget. They are often cut off from mass communications, so they even miss out on public health messages.

This is the daily reality the 3 million internally-displaced people in Afghanistan face, reports the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Afghanistan has the world’s fourth largest population of internally-displaced children within its borders – 1.5 million. Last year alone, UNICEF reports that 461,000 were displaced due to conflict and violence in the country. Another 117,000 were displaced due to natural disasters.

UNICEF and its partners in Afghanistan have been working with many internally-displaced families from the early days of the lockdown.
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They are aware that even a single COVID-19 positive case in these communities will spread like wildfire. The children and elderly are even more susceptible because their immunity systems are weak and they often suffer from malnutrition.

They live in temporary settlements across the country like the Hazrat Bilal camp in Balkh province. Schools have been shut down in the camp. Facilitators are travelling from door-to-door to share information about COVID-19 and how to prevent its spread.

In the camps in Herat province, UNICEF has been promoting personal hygiene, supplying hygiene kits and distributing soap. On a daily basis, 52 trained facilitators divide the task of checking on all families. Here it’s especially important to keep track because the washrooms and toilets are also shared within the community.

With the outbreak in its sixth month, UNICEF has also launched a global appeal for $1.6 billion to support their humanitarian work with children impacted by COVID-19, including internally-displaced ones.

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