Afghans displaced by Taliban violence face elevated COVID-19 threat

By Najibullah


Families displaced by Taliban violence take temporary shelter at a market in Mehtarlam, Laghman province, on May 24. [Noorullah Shirzada/AFP]

KABUL -- Hundreds of thousands of Afghans displaced by recent Taliban attacks now face another threat -- contracting the coronavirus.

Because of a surge in Taliban attacks, more than 150,000 individuals have been displaced since the beginning of this solar year, said Abdul Basit Ansari, an advisor at the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations.

"In recent days, we have noticed a record high in numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs) due to the ongoing fighting," he said.

A number of those displaced have expressed concerns that gathering with their relatives' families or in government-designated locations has increased the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

The Ministry of Public Health on Thursday (July 1) reported 86 deaths from COVID-19 over the past 24 hours. The total number of recorded cases is 122,156, while the total number of deaths is 5,048.

Taliban attacks have forced thousands of families to abandon their homes and face the double threat of hot weather and of the coronavirus, said Mohammad Reza, a resident of Pato district in Daikundi, who has taken temporary shelter with a relative in Nili city, the provincial capital.

The house where he is staying has 40 occupants, he said. If one person catches COVID-19, then everyone in the house is at risk.

Mohammad Omar, 49, a farmer from Shinwari district, fled to Charikar, the capital of Parwan province, after the Taliban seized control of the district.

"Two members of my family are sick and coughing, and we are not sure if they have COVID-19," he said.

"The Taliban care neither about suffering nor the need to stay home when you are sick," Omar said. "Either the Taliban or COVID-19 will eventually kill the Afghan people."

Surge in violence, COVID-19 cases

Taliban violence is the main challenge to providing health services for Afghans, said Ghulam Dastagir Nazari, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Public Health.

"The fighting unfortunately affects our programmes," he said. "In particular, the clashes on highways impact the on-time delivery of much-needed medical supplies to the provinces."

Any kind of gathering can expose Afghans to the coronavirus, so the ministry encourages them to avoid living in large groups, he said, referring to those displaced by combat.

Civilians are suffering exponentially from the recent surge in Taliban attacks, which has forced many to flee their houses, as well as from endemic poverty and the coronavirus pandemic, said Nooriya Hamidi, a member of the Wolesi Jirga from Baghlan.

The fighting has forced many to take temporary shelter in mosques, where they lack access to food and drinking water, she said.

She urged the Taliban to listen to the public's demands and agree to a ceasefire because the spread of COVID-19 paired with intensified Taliban assaults has significantly increased human suffering.

Taliban block access to health care

The situation is worrying, said Nazifa Yousufi Bek, a member of the Wolesi Jirga from Takhar.

The third wave of the coronavirus is spreading widely, even if COVID-19 figures are underreported, she said.

In highly insecure areas, particularly where combat is raging, civilians lack access to health centres and clinics, Bek said, urging the Taliban to allow health supplies to reach the public at this critical time.

Hundreds of families fleeing Taliban fighting in the Ghorband Valley in Parwan province are staying in tents provided by the government, said Parwaiz Amin Zada, a representative of the Parwan Youth Council.

However, the tents stand next to each other, leading to concerns over the spread of COVID-19, he said.

"To reduce the number of fatalities and avoid the spread of deadly COVID-19 ... one must follow strict precautionary measures, including social distancing and wearing masks as well as frequently washing one's hands with soap," Zada said.

After the Taliban took control of two districts in Parwan province, the ensuing turmoil forced a suspension of medical care in those districts, he added.

While the coronavirus kills dozens of Afghans every day, the continued Taliban violence and clashes have forced them to put aside the threat of COVID-19, said Mujib-u-Rahman, 26, a resident of Faryab who lives in Kabul now.

"The Taliban do not value the lives of our people," he said. "The Taliban should have stopped fighting to prevent the spread of COVID-19 across Afghanistan."

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All the displaced people of the recent wars in the country should be provided with urgent assistance. People in this hot weather are faced with various problems. If the Afghan government and welfare organizations not provide urgent or immediate aids to these displaced people, a human disaster will occur.


In fact, all these misfortunes were caused by hatred from several people, and God knows how long will this continue. The communists supported by Russians and the Ikhwan [Muslim Brotherhood members] supported by Pakistan raised against the policies of President Daud Khan, they started to show hatred against him. Daud Khan started to show hatred against them; he forced the Ikhwan to escape to Pakistan and put the communists in jails. The Ikhwan launched fighting against him, and the communists launched coup d'état against him. As Daud Khan was removed, the communists started to show hatred toward Ikhwan, and together with them, they killed innocent people. Ikhwan or Mujahideen started to hate the communists, and after several years, they collapsed their government. Taliban started to hate the [jihadi] parties and collapsed their government. At that time, the Ikhwan parties, who have turned into complete thugs, together with America, collapsed the Taliban's government. The Taliban started to hate again as they continue their fighting. None of them worked for God and the country, and they were thinking about filling their pockets, but unfortunately, its sorrow and pain are sustained by such poor people who now in ten- and twenty-member groups pass the time in a single tent. May Allah bless our people. Amen.