Coronavirus Pushing Millions Of Afghans Into Poverty

Afghanistan’s healthcare system is being overwhelmed by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The virus is forcing millions of Afghanis into poverty as the country’s healthcare system becomes devastated with more and more victims.

Along with the problems in the health care system, the coronavirus is also causing a food shortage in the country. A quarterly report from the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) cautioned that Afghanistan is headed towards a “humanitarian disaster.” The most recent reports from data collected by Johns Hopkins University show that Afghanistan has over 36,500 cases of coronavirus and 1,271 coronavirus related deaths. However, the actual total number of cases is believed to be much higher. SIGAR pointed to research that suggests that up to 90 per cent of possible coronavirus cases are not being tested. As is the case with many other countries, most of the cases are concentered in urban areas with the capital city, Kabul, being the epicenter of recorded cases.

“The economic shock of the pandemic, including increased unemployment, food-supply disruptions due to border closures, and rising food prices, has exacerbated Afghans’ food insecurity, already impacted by the ongoing conflict and high poverty levels,” concluded SIGAR. “Afghanistan lacks the medical equipment necessary to treat patients diagnosed with COVID-19,” added SIGAR. They also noted that only 300 ventilators are currently available across the country and that there is a critical oxygen shortage in Kabul. “Experts predict that an additional eight million people will fall into poverty, pushing the poverty rate from 55 per cent to 80 per cent,” the SIGAR report stated. Various aid organizations reported that Afghanistan’s health care system was stretched thin even before the pandemic. There was limited coverage in areas affected by conflict and they did not have much specialized care – things are now worse because of the pandemic.

The world is struggling with the pandemic, but for Afghanistan, it was dealing with other problems when the pandemic began and has not been able to gather the resources to properly deal with the virus. The U.S. and the Taliban in Afghanistan had just signed a peace agreement earlier this year, and U.S. troops were beginning to pull out of the country. Afghanistan has been plagued by violence for years and full of U.S. military since the “War on Terror.” Now, the pandemic is only further straining the country’s resources. Afghanistan entered a recession due to the pandemic, causing their economy to shrink by up to ten percent this year, according to SIGAR. Additionally, attacks and violence have not stopped across Afghanistan. On Thursday, at least 17 people died in a car bomb explosion in Logar province, just hours before a three day ceasefire began in the country for Eid al-Adha. The United Nations estimates that around 1300 civilians, including hundreds of children, have been killed in Afghanistan in the first six months of 2020.

There is currently no plan in place to aid Afghanistan in their pandemic-caused recession, but the country will need healthcare aid in order to contain and eliminate the virus. When a cure is found, it is important that it is available in Afghanistan so they can begin to recover.