Since Afghanistan recorded its first coronavirus case in March 2020 in the Herat province, a number of organizations have offered assistance. Numerous agencies have stepped in to educate residents about good hygiene practices and to support basic infrastructure in order to enable people to safely live and work. Efforts to strengthen Afghanistan have ranged from increasing the accessibility of mobile money to teaching citizens about what coronavirus is.
The World Bank was one of the first agencies to respond by providing a $100 million emergency grant in early April to help Afghanistan’s public healthcare system implement coronavirus testing and build its stock of medical equipment and supplies. UNICEF offered assistance in June, air shipping 80 tons of personal protective equipment for medical workers.
Moreover, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health has sought to educate the public about COVID-19. The public health agency and the World Bank have worked together to create awareness campaigns focused on the importance of mask wearing, self-quarantining, hand washing, and social distancing.
However, as COVID-19 continues to spread through Afghanistan, the cold, winter months have created additional hardships for people most in need in the country. A lack of access to clean water and hygiene products, particularly among displaced communities, has made it difficult for people to implement good practices in order to reduce the viral spread.
Organizations around the world have again stepped up to help, with several of them providing substantial grants to improve healthcare and meet the basic needs of people who lack access to essential resources. The following are some recent efforts.
Norwegian Refugee Council
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is working in Shaidayee, where more than 14,000 Afghans live. The camp lacked sufficient water for cooking, cleaning, or hand washing, a key practice for combating the spread of COVID-19.
NRC has provided hygiene and sanitation packs for refugees in Shaidayee, which include toothpaste, soap, shampoo, and washing equipment. The organization has also hosted hygiene workshops for residents of the camp to teach them about the virus and what measures they can take to prevent it from spreading.
“We have to be careful now to protect ourselves and people around us,” workshop attendee Abdul Raziq told a media outlet.
In addition, the NRC seeks to ensure that residents have an adequate supply of clean water in their homes.
World Bank grants
In December, the World Bank Board of Executive Directors approved nearly $85 million in grant assistance to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Afghanistan. The grants, which are provided by the International Development Association, are a portion of a $393 million package to provide greater access to clean water, public services, and sanitation.
The $85 million financial package has two parts:
$50 million grant—A $50 million grant will support the Afghanistan Water, Sanitation, Hygiene, and Institutional Support (A-WASH) project. With an additional $150 million from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), the project will focus on bolstering the Afghanistan Urban Water Supply and Sewerage Corporation’s capacity in Kabul, Herat, and Kandahar, which includes investing in infrastructure that will halt the depletion of groundwater and ensure that more people have access to clean water. The project is part of a 12-year plan to provide a safe water supply to the residents of Afghanistan’s largest cities.
$35 million grant—The remaining $35 million grant will go toward the second financing of the Citizens’ Charter Afghanistan Project. ARTF will contribute about $158 million, making this a $193 million project to expand services to 10 cities in Afghanistan. In addition, the grant will fund increased emergency support and social services, as well as public works projects that will provide new jobs and help to address the COVID-19 crisis. Some of the efforts will focus on providing critical assistance in the Kuchi communities.
In addition, Afghanistan has received additional grants to help to sustain its economy amid the pandemic. For instance, the World Bank provided a $160 million grant to Afghanistan in May, which was part of a $400 million economic support package in conjunction with ARTF designed to encourage private investment, support civil service reforms, and expand social inclusion. In July, the World Bank approved an additional $200 million in grant funding to provide relief for people and businesses that have been struggling and to support necessary infrastructure such as electricity and telecommunications. Other World Bank grants have focused on expanding agricultural production and shoring up food supply chains. As the pandemic continues, aid groups will continue to provide food, clean water, and other necessities.