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Afghanistan’s coronavirus crisis
2020

In March 2020, more than 140 000 Afgans had fled Iran's deadly coronavirus outbreak and subsequent economic stagnation, part of what one international expert called the world’s largest cross-border migration since the pandemic began.

Most of them crossed the border in the western city of Herat. A city of about half a million, tied to Iran by trade, culture, and as the port through which hundreds of thousands of Afghans pass annually, mostly young men heading to Iran to find work. That relationship has put Herat, which now has nearly three quarters of the country’s 258 positive cases, at the center of Afghanistan’s coronavirus crisis.

Afghanistan’s porous borders make detecting and preventing the virus’s spread from neighboring countries virtually impossible. Fear and misinformation deter those with symptoms from seeking treatment, and Afghan homes typically host large, multigenerational families, making calls for social distancing unrealistic. At even greater risk are Afghanistan’s 4 million displaced people, who are too busy trying to survive poverty and upheaval to worry about a new virus.

But coronavirus crisis is about to hit the entire country, and not only the IDP camps : in February, Afghanistan’s public health ministry designated the Afghan Japan Hospital in Kabul as the capital’s primary coronavirus treatment facility. But there was a problem: The hand sanitizer procured by the ministry and distributed throughout the hospital was tested and found to have zero alcohol content, two hospital staff members said. There is also a startling shortage of coronavirus tests and ventilators.
In this situation, Afghanistan expects millions of coronavirus cases...

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