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Afghanistan Flash Update | COVID-19 | Strategic Situation Report No. 76 | 13 September 2020

Key Messages: UPDATED

  • People confirmed to have COVID-19: 38,716 (as of 2pm, 13 September. Source: Afghanistan Ministry of Public Health - MoPH)
  • Deaths from COVID-19: 1,420
  • Samples tested: 106,802

Key concerns: Border crossing areas, in-country testing capacity, protective equipment for frontline workers, maintaining essential health services, public complacency, sustained prevention and mitigation measures, messaging and rumour management

Situation Overview: UPDATED

MoPH data shows that 38,716 people across all 34 provinces in Afghanistan are now confirmed to have COVID-19. Some 31,638 people have recovered, and 1,420 people have died - 76 of whom are healthcare workers. Almost 10 per cent of the total confirmed COVID-19 cases are among healthcare staff. 106,802 people out of a population of 37.6 million have been tested. The majority of the deaths were people between the ages of 50 and 79. Men in this age group represent half of all COVID-19-related deaths. Men account for more than 70 per cent of the total COVID-19 confirmed cases, although this may be the result of over-representation of men in testing. Due to limited public health resources and testing capacity, as well as the absence of a national death register, confirmed cases of and deaths from COVID-19 are likely to be under-reported overall in Afghanistan. Kabul remains the most affected part of the country in terms of confirmed cases, followed by Hirat, Balkh, Kandahar and Nangarhar provinces.

Complacency and failure to follow public health advice is creating grave risks in the community with people generally not observing physical distancing protocols. Recent modelling on COVID-19 projections, developed by the Centre for Humanitarian Data in collaboration with Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and released on 9 September, suggests cases and deaths will continue to rise over the next four weeks. Modelling further suggests a significant increase in severe cases (potentially up to 3x the number) should current preventative measures be lifted, creating grave implications for Afghanistan’s economy and people’s well-being.

Hospitals and clinics continue to report challenges maintaining or expanding their facilities’ capacity to treat patients with COVID-19 as well as maintaining essential health services. In Afghanistan, there has been a general decrease of 30 to 40 per cent in the utilisation of essential health services. Meanwhile, mobile health team consultations between April and July increased by 83 per cent compared to the same period last year. WHO emphasises that infection prevention and control need to be improved in health facilities to encourage people to return to health services safely. WHO reiterates the importance of ensuring healthcare workers have the proper personal protection to carry out services. In addition, effective and accurate risk communication activities are needed to reassure people that it is safe to seek treatment at hospitals and health centres, and that health centres are carrying out proper infection prevention and control measures.

Current laboratory capacity in Afghanistan remains limited. Humanitarian partners urge the Government of Afghanistan to ensure laboratories are appropriately equipped and that procured supplies go to under-resourced health centres in a transparent manner, so that life-saving support can be delivered to those most in need.

WHO notes that when health systems are overwhelmed, as is being seen in Afghanistan, both direct mortality from the outbreak and indirect mortality from vaccine-preventable and treatable conditions increase dramatically. WHO stresses the need to balance the demands of responding directly to COVID-19, with simultaneously engaging in strategic planning and coordinated action to maintain essential health service delivery, mitigating against the risk of system collapse.

In a recently published statement on 11 September by the Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Deborah Lyons, Ms. Lyons welcomes the start of face-to-face peace talks between Afghan parties in Doha, Qatar, and called for a humanitarian pause in conflict, noting that “in the context of the health and economic challenges posed by COVID-19, poverty and natural disasters, a humanitarian pause to the fighting would enable critical humanitarian support to reach the many millions requiring assistance across all areas of the country, as well as provide an opening for Afghans to start to rebuild their lives and livelihoods and give their children hope.”

Operation(s)/ Webspace(s): 
Organization(s): 
United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
World Health Organization
Cluster(s)/Sector(s): 
Original Publication Date: 
13 Sep 2020
Document type: 
Situation Report
Coordination hub(s): 
National Level Coordination