Although Afghanistan is still in the ‘Pre-Surge’ phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) sources, the country has a low level of preparedness in relation to the level of response that is likely to be required. As as of 2:00pm, 28 May 2020, according to the MoPH, a total of 13,036 confirmed cases out of 34,936 samples tested have been reported in 33 provinces of Afghanistan. The country is particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 due to the limited availability of properly equipped medical facilities, inadequate numbers of trained medical personnel, the damaging effect of 40 years of war on social capital at the community level, a large influx of returnees from Iran and Pakistan during recent months, and the lack of resources to support local government in taking the action needed.
The danger posed by COVID-19 in Afghanistan has been exacerbated as recent returnees entered communities from the Islām Qala (Herat), Torkham (Nangarhar), and Chaman (Kandahar) border areas, without being properly quarantined. With the lack of testing kits and facilities, and challenges with screening, contact tracing, containment, and quarantine; the current Pre-Surge (a small number of reported cases) will quickly move towards the Surge phase when the number of new infections starts to rise exponentially.
The COVID-19 threat has further exacerbated the socio-economic crisis in the country. Poverty is expected to remain high, driven by weak labor demand and security-related constraints on service delivery. Furthermore, 67 percent of non-agricultural jobs are in a vulnerable employment category. In the aftermath of the drought of 2018, the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to contribute to a contraction in the economy of up to four percent in 2020.
Areas of intervention
UNDP is working in close coordination with WHO, OCHA and other UN agencies and international partners to support the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GoIRA) to tackle the COVID-19 crisis in the country. In response to the GoIRA’s request to development partners, UNDP have had to rethink our programmes and responses; reprogramming existing projects, shaping new responses and integrating with our UN system to coordinate closely across the health – humanitarian – development nexus:
With the UNDP Afghanistan COVID-19 Programme Development package near finalization; UNDP is looking into re-prioritizing and re-programming its regular financial resources for COVID-19 response related work and working at a global level to mobilize additional funding for its response and support program for recovery.