Kabul police on duty during lockdown

Government extends lockdown period, poor families worry about food scarcity

The Afghan authorities have extended period of lockdown in major cities including the capital Kabul as the fatal pandemic continues to climb in the country.

The Ministry of Public Health confirmed that 607 people have tested positive for coronavirus and 19 patients, who were inflected by the virus, have died in the country. According to health authorities, 38 people, infected by the virus, have recovered, so far.

An official record shows that in the capital Kabul, out of 119 patients, five have passed away. After Herat, Kabul is the second hard bit city in Afghanistan.  

The Kabul governor’s press office says that Kabul would remain under a full lockdown for two weeks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. During this period, the gates will be closed and public movement would be allowed.

The government has taken a relief initiative to supply ten thousand tons of wheat to poor families in Kabul. Government officials say relief operation continues and a 50-Kg gunny of wheat is supplied to each family.

Meanwhile, a number of Kabul residents have criticized the government for what they call unfair distribution of aid. In a move, the government distributed a package of 3.5 Kg wheat to needy families in western neighborhood of Kabul which is mostly populated by the Hazaras.    

A group of people receiving a package of 3.5 Kg wheat in Kabul

“The government has supplied a few gunny of wheat to each mosque,” Sayed Mohsin Alavi, a volunteer who identifies needy families in western neighborhood of Kabul, told Kabul Now. “In a mosque where 800 families [were waiting to receive aid], only 25 gunnies of wheat have been given.”

With an estimated 1.5 million population, the western neighborhood of Kabul is an area where poor families are dwelling. Many residents of the area are labors who live on daily wages and hard laboring.

There are 19,000 needy families in the area but the government has supplied aid for 6,000 families, says Ahmad Malekyar, head of PD13. “The government has donated about 300 tons of wheat (about 6,000 gunnies) and 359 gunnies of peas for 6,000 poor families,” says Mr. Malekyar.

With the pandemic coronavirus began to spread, unemployment rate jumped to top, with thousands of laborers having no source of income in the capital. The growing unemployment has put a large number of people at serious risk of starvation.

Vegetable market in western neighborhood of Kabul

Most poor families cannot afford to stay home under a lockdown. Ali Akbar is happy with government decision to place the city under lockdown, preventing the spread of the virus, but his family will starve if he stops working.

“Many people are listing my personal identification for a few days now, but we haven’t received any aid yet,” says Ali Akbar. “The government doesn’t control price of fruit in the market. The fruit we used to buy for 450 afghanis is now 800 afghanis.”

The story of 65 year old Ali Akbar depicts how difficult survival has become for thousands of poor families in Kabul.