Fighting fear and bringing hope as coronavirus spreads in Afghanistan

Covid19Mental HealthcareAfghanistan

Right now in Afghanistan, there’s a desperate fight against coronavirus and the social and mental health consequences that come with it. Tearfund’s partners are there, serving people on the frontline.

Across all 34 of the country’s provinces, the virus is spreading fast. At the time of writing there have been almost 35,000 reported cases and more than a thousand deaths. The actual figures are likely to be much higher because of limited testing and the stigma that is associated with reporting deaths from Covid-19.

For a country already devastated by decades of conflict, and where more than 90 per cent of the population live in extreme poverty, the outlook is concerning. Much of Afghanistan’s health infrastructure has already been severely weakened during the conflict as hospitals and clinics have been destroyed.

With the arrival of coronavirus, many people are also struggling with grief, trauma, isolation, stress and fear.

A helping hand
Through our local partners, Tearfund is working to relieve some of the mental health impacts of coronavirus for those most at risk. We are also taking other steps to help curb the spread of the virus.

'The counselling is helping families to cope with the many challenges they face.'

Louise Dean

Trained counsellors from one of our partners are providing telephone counselling services. In addition we’re printing and distributing posters and leaflets; broadcasting TV programmes with public health messages; and giving advice on how to cope with stress and trauma.

So far, in a province in western Afghanistan, 731 people who don’t normally have access to mental health services have received face-to-face or telephone counselling. Staff at 11 health facilities were also given training in how to give emergency psychological first aid to their patients.

Anxious times
‘The effects of Covid-19 on the communities living here are mostly on their mental wellbeing and [on the] economy,’ a local Tearfund partner staff member (who can’t be identified for security reasons) told us. ‘There are high levels of fear and anxiety in communities; fear for their health and families, and anxiety for their futures.’

In the same area, 1,200 families have been given hygiene kits and training on good hygiene and sanitation to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Health workers have also received personal protection equipment (PPE) as well as training in better hygiene and sanitation practices as they work to fight the disease.

But there is still more to do and there are more people to reach. In a country where the ongoing conflict makes it challenging to work, we need your prayers and support.

‘People are feeling desperate and have nowhere to turn for support. The counselling is helping families to cope with the many challenges they face,’ says Louise Dean, Tearfund’s Acting Country Director for Afghanistan. ‘We are working on the frontline to fight fear and bring hope, but we need your help.’

PLEASE PRAY

Father God,
Please be with and comfort people in Afghanistan who have already gone through so much. Provide for their physical and emotional needs, and heal those who are sick. May coronavirus not spread any further and soon disappear from Afghanistan. Please continue to give courage and protection to Tearfund’s partner organisations who are bravely working in such a challenging place.
In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

As the lockdown in the UK eases, the situation is getting worse in other areas of the world. We are joining with the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) – a group of 14 of the UK’s leading aid charities – to protect millions of people before it’s too late. Our local partners are on the frontlines, providing life-saving support. Please give now so this important work can continue.

Andrew Horton

Andrew is Online News and Film Editor for Tearfund. This involves finding and writing up inspiring articles for the website, and capturing compelling stories on video.