An Afghan woman receives aid package being distributed by local government

Complaints remain high against “unfair” distribution of aid packages in Herat

“I survived those tough days when we did not have a loaf of bread to eat,” Begum, 52, retells her story of raising ten children as a single mother. She resembles those dark periods with the current lockdown and spread of coronavirus.

Begum is currently living in PD13 of Herat city. “When I heard about aid package I regained my hope but so far, I received neither ration card for naan nor any health equipment including gloves and mask,” she complains.

People in Herat became fearful of the pandemic virus on the first days of the lockdown, Begum says. They isolated themselves only for few weeks but as food prices rose up they broke the lockdown and came out, she adds.

With 3,715 confirmed cases and 66 death toll, Herat is the second hard hit city in Afghanistan. As the pandemic reached in the country, the Afghan government opened a 100-bed health facility for Covid-19 patients to control the outbreak of the virus but some doctors, who work in the frontline of fight against Covid-19 in the city, say that government-run health facility is short of equipment and staff.  

For the time being, commercial business are as usual in Herat but unemployment, insecurity and food sacristy are on rise. The poor residents of the city are apprehensive about the situation. The local government has promised it would take measures to address the issues.     

“I know that the private sectors and government invested huge amount of money on poor people but due to the corrupt system and greedy in-charges, most of the poor people received nothing,” says the 43-year-old Safdar, who is the only breadwinner of a seven-member-family.  Safdar, who is a street vendor and sells vegetables, says that the stressing lockdown over city added to his wife’s mental stress.

Safdar cannot afford to treat his wife. “She was not in a good health condition, I sent her to Bamyan with my children so that she may recover,” Safdar says.

Distribution of aid packages in Herat were totally unfair. A total of 55 ration cards were issued to 11 districts, which means five ration cards for each district, says Ibrahim Panahi, chairman of a community development council in PD13. “We even provided one card to 3-5 families. It was not a fair system of providing card to poor people,” he says. Panahi and Askari, who are councilors in PD13, say that they were given 170 bars of soap to donate them to 11 districts. 

Ghulam Habib Hashemi, member of Herat provincial council, says that private sectors paid huge amount of money to help poor people but due to mismanagement and lack of time, not everyone in need of help receives aid packages.

“Aid? What aid? We were only given a bar soap by the local leaders and told that we need to stay at home to be safe. But soap cannot be food for us,” says 31-year-old Mohammad, who is the only breadwinner of his nine-membered-family. “The government is ridiculing poor people.”

Ahmad Saeed Azmiyan, deputy chairman of Herat Chamber of Commerce and Investment, says that up to two million dollars are donated by the private sector, as cash and food ingredients, to impecunious people.

According to him, the government didn’t have a plan when it placed Herat under a lockdown, which caused a large number of people including the daily wage workers to lose their jobs.

To reduce poverty-caused crimes, the private sector in Herat decided to support poor families and it donated 100,000 packages of food to needy families, giving out hygienic stuffs including hand sanitizers, soaps, and masks to health centers, and disinfecting the city.

The Afghan government approved a new financial package of 89 billion afghanis to fight against the pandemic coronavirus almost a month ago. Out of this, 400 million afghanis has been allocated for Herat committee of fighting against corona, and 28,891,528 afghanis would be spent to buy health equipment for hospitals in Herat. 12,371,617 afghanis would be spend on corona related advertisements printed on billboards and aired by local TVs and radios in the province.

Barkatullah Mohammadi, spokesperson for Herat public health directorate, confirmed to Kabul Now that so far they have spent 192 million afghanis in the fight against Covid-19.    

According to the official record published on Sunday, June 07, the total number of Covid-19 cases has reached 20,342 in the country. 357 people, who were infected by the virus, have died and 1,857 others have recovered, according to official figure. The actual numbers of positive cases and death toll are higher than the officials records which has been repeatedly acknowledged by health authorities and those who are in charge of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic in the country.