Kabul: Afghanistan is battling a massive increase in COVID-19 infections as health officials plead for vaccines, only to be told by the World Health Organization (WHO) that the three million doses the country expected to receive by April will not be delivered until August.
“We are in the middle of a crisis,” health ministry spokesman Ghulam Dastagir Nazari said this week, expressing deep frustration at the global vaccine distribution that has left poor countries scrambling to find supplies for their people.
This comes even as the Ministry of Public Health reported 1,273 new positive cases of COVID-19 of the 3,346 samples tested in the last 24 hours. The ministry also reports 41 deaths and 140 recoveries from COVID-19 in the same period.
Nazari, meanwhile, has knocked on the door of several embassies, and so far, “I’ve gotten diplomatic answers” but no vaccine doses, he said.
Over the past month, the surge in new cases has threatened to overwhelm Afghanistan’s health system, already struggling under the weight of relentless conflict.
The third wave of COVID-19 has sent Afghanistan’s infection rate soaring, hitting 16 provinces and the capital, Kabul, the hardest. This week, the rate of registered new cases reached as many as 1,500 a day, compared to 178 a day on May 1.
Hospital beds are full, and it is feared rapidly dwindling oxygen supplies will run out. Afghan ambassadors have been ordered to seek out emergency oxygen supplies in nearby countries, the foreign minister, Haneef Atmar, said in a tweet on Friday.
Meanwhile, President Ashraf Ghani said that 700,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine will arrive from China soon and the necessary measures will be taken to provide the required oxygen.
The acting minister of Public Health, Vahid Majrooh said that a plan had been drawn up to complete the oxygen shortage in the hospitals, and that a number of hospitals would be connected to the central oxygen system and the rest would be connected.
Meanwhile, following reports of citizens mistreating health workers at a government hospital in west of Kabul, the Interior Ministry said that “people who insult health workers and damage health funds will be detained”.
Tariq Arian, a spokesperson for the ministry, wrote on his Twitter account on Saturday, “Patience must be exercised in the hospital setting.”
Arian warned people that those who use threats and coercion against health workers will be arrested and brought to justice. “Doctors in this situation are making every effort to contain the situation and care for the patients of COVID-19. This is a global problem and it does not belong to Afghanistan alone.”