BAGLHAN-PARWAN – Continued violence during the COVID-19 pandemic is exasperating Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis, observed participants in a series of radio discussions in Afghanistan’s northeast, west and Kabul provinces.
Participants, who included clerics, community elders, civil society, youth and women’s rights activists, said that the deadly mix of COVID-19 and violence had added to the devastation and suffering in Afghanistan. The discussants made repeated calls to halt the violence to facilitate the delivery of health and essential services to vulnerable communities, particularly in remote and rural areas.
“Health workers are unable to travel to remote areas, while infected people can’t reach health facilities,” said panellist Sameera Ahmadi in Parwan. “Both sides have the power to stop this catastrophe through a ceasefire.”
Adela Kabiri, a lecturer at Herat University, said COVID-19 should be sufficient reason to lay down arms by both parties – “COVID-19 is a common enemy on both sides which should compel them to declare a ceasefire.”
As the coronavirus wreaks havoc on public health and devastates livelihoods, Afghans, especially in rural areas, are bearing the brunt. Already, victims of decades of conflict, the outbreak is pushing Afghanistan into deeper poverty, insecurity and underdevelopment.
In the northern province of Baghlan, similar discussions were aired with participants warning listeners against complacency following a reduction in the number of infections across the country.
“Coronavirus is a threat to all Afghans,” said Dr Abdul Alim Ghaffari, deputy director at Baghlan Department of Public Health. Ghaffari called on everyone to work together in fighting the pandemic by avoiding misinformation, ending stigma and staying away from large gatherings. He urged everyone to follow the WHO guidelines, including social distancing, washing hands and wearing face masks in public places.
Supported by UNAMA field offices in Central Region, Kunduz and Herat, the radio series reached hundreds of thousands of residents in several provinces including Baghlan, Herat, Kapisa, Logar, Maidan Wardak, Pansjhir and Parwan.
UNAMA works with various institutions and individuals, including media stations, religious leaders, provincial councils, community leaders, youth groups and women to create platforms – using radio, social media, and television – for Afghans to engage in dialogue on pressing issues affecting their communities.