According to World Health Organization (WHO), there have been 204,610 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 7829 death. As of 8 November 2022, a total of 12,174,141 vaccine doses have been administered in Afghanistan.
In a country where the health system is in a state of collapse, we believe the COVID-19 cases remain immensely underreported. Similar to our previous updates, the Afghan people are concerned with more urgent matters such as safety, security and providing basic necessities for their loved ones. Winter is approaching and there are serious concerns about another famine and severe food shortage.
The situation gets more dire in the marginalized communities. Hazaras, long stigmatized due to race and religion, continue to bear the brunt under Afghanistan’s current rulers. Forced displacements, landgrab, intimidation and systematic attacks on Hazara schools, hospitals, places of worship and other civilian targets have unprecedentedly increased in recent months. Thousands have died and seriously injured in the senseless attacks.
Fundraising for projects in Afghanistan is becoming increasingly difficult as other global issues and conflicts are taking the center stage and as Afghanistan is being forgotten. We are in the process of sending a humanitarian aid package for a group of at-risk families to help them with basic necessities during the upcoming harsh winter. We will provide more details in our next update.
Your support allows us to provide lifesaving assistance to some of the most vulnerable families in Afghanistan’s marginalized Hazara communities. We thank you for your support during this difficult and heartbreaking time.
Timor + The Bamyan Foundation Team
Dear Friends and Supporters,
According to World Health Organization (WHO), as of July 22, 2022, “there have been 184,069 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 7,737 deaths. As of 17 July 2022, a total of 6,706,843 vaccine doses have been administered, a low figure compared to other countries. There are shortages of oxygen and ventilators to treat severe COVID-19 cases, and not to mention trained medical staff. Vaccine inequity has also impacted Afghanistan due to roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines worldwide. Epidemiologists have warned that failure to stop COVID-19 in one geographical area presents a serious risk of potential for outbreak to the rest of the world.
While COVID-19 remains a serious health concern, Afghans are dealing with more urgent matters since the government collapse in August 2021. Persecuted and marginalized communities continue to bear the brunt. Hazaras, also known as Afghanistan’s others, continue to be substantially sidelined from the life-saving humanitarian aid distributed by major aid organizations. While some minor improvements have been reported recently – however, the aid distributed in Hazara areas pales in comparison to the much higher amount of aid distributed among the ruling Pashtuns, according to Hazara community leaders on the ground. There are reports of aid allocated for Hazaras that are distributed to Taliban soldiers and members of their Pashtun tribes. Additionally, the aid that finally reach Hazaras are very small compared to the aid distributed in Pashtun areas, and only covers a small fraction of the communities in specific localities.
Taliban have consistently denied Hazaras access to aid since the start of the humanitarian efforts in the fall of 2021 following the collapse of Afghan government in August 2021. It is part of their strategy of collective punishment of Hazaras due to the community’s support for the U.S. intervention in the past 20 years. In most cases, Taliban outrightly deny the need for humanitarian aid in Hazara areas. A recent example is the conflict in the Hazara-populated district of Balkhab in northern Afghanistan. After the Taliban attack late last month and the ensuing humanitarian crisis, the United Nations reported approximately 27,000 displaced Hazaras who fled after the Taliban military campaign in Balkhab. The Taliban denied the existence of displaced Hazaras and went as far as denying casualties and violence in Balkhab (please see the links provided to reports on Balkhab conflict). They tried to block humanitarian aid for thousands of the displaced Balkhabis, who have taken refuge in Bamyan province and other neighboring districts. Hundreds of families have fled to the mountains and are in urgent need of food, water and shelter.
It is of utmost importance that the international community introduce urgent improvements to the aid distribution process so that all Afghans - regardless of race, religion and gender, and with minimum interference from Taliban - have access to the life-saving aid. It appears that aid has become a mechanism of punishment and reward for the current rulers of Afghanistan.
Again, while COVID-19 remains a serious risk, the Afghan people, particularly the marginalized groups, battle more urgent enemies – violence, displacement and severe food shortages. Within our limited resources, the Foundation is in the process of dispatching a humanitarian aid package to those who have fled to the mountains and who are in dire conditions. We will provide more details in the next report.
In this time of crisis, your support has never been more critical. Your donations to this project will go towards supporting the persecuted Hazaras, who are battling a humanitarian crisis and a dangerous contagion.
We are thankful for your continuous support.
Timor + the Bamyan Foundation Team
It seems only five hospitals in Afghanistan still offer COVID-19 services with 33 others closed since the collapse of the Afghan government in August 2021. Though official statistics on COVID-19 rates are no longer available due to the collapse of the health system, it appears that the Omicron variant has been spreading fast this winter. The World Health Organization had promised the necessary kits by the end of February.
Though Omicron can be devastating in Afghanistan, where vaccination rates are low; however, people have been dealing with more urgent issues, such as political chaos and severe shortage of food and basic necessities during this harsh winter. The urgency is more severe in communities, who have been stigmatized due to race and religion for generations. Hazaras, who constitute about 20% of the Afghan population and easily distinguishable among other Afghans due to their Asiatic features, have been bearing the brunt. A common indicator of race, social status and privilege is facial features in Afghanistan. Those with Middle Eastern facial features (Pashtuns and Tajiks) are among the privileged groups while those with Asiatic features have been subjected to racial discrimination, marginalization and relegated to second class citizens from the founding of the state of Afghanistan. Since the Taliban takeover, the situation is further aggravated for the Hazara community due to the Hazara’s overwhelming support for the United States’ intervention in the past 20 years. The Taliban movement is a toxic combination of Pashtun nationalism and militant Sunni Islamic fundamentalism, and their hostility towards Shia Hazaras is widely known and documented since the rise of the ethnoreligious movement in the 1990s. These days, in a form of punitive measure and collective punishment, the Taliban and their supporters are sidelining Hazaras from the aid distribution by major aid organizations such as United Nations Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA), World Food Program (WFP) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), according to Hazara community leaders and civil society members on the ground. In addition to forced displacements and land grabs, Hazaras have been the target of extortion by Taliban leadership and rank and file. Ismael, a Hazara businessman interviewed for an article published by George Washington University (GWU), shared that he was asked to pay a 1000 USD bribe to a Taliban officer to register his car that should have only cost approximately 150 USD. When asked why he was charged such a large sum, the Talib officer replied that, “a Hazara should be thankful that a Talib is processing his vehicle’s registration at the cost of dollars and not killing him” (please see the embedded article, Risks Facing Hazaras in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan under Links).
At a small scale and within Bamyan Foundation’s capabilities in terms of resources and fundraising, the Foundation has helped streamline the Hazara diaspora efforts to help our at-risk community in Afghanistan. In collaboration with Baba Mazari Foundation and community leaders on the ground, our teams distributed cash assistance to some of the most vulnerable families that were identified through a survey. From the total humanitarian aid package of 33,260 USD (more details will be provided in our humanitarian aid project), 7400 USD was from COVID-19 funds that was raised through this project and a generous grant from GlobalGiving’s Coronavirus Relief.
From the 7400 USD, 5000 USD was distributed as cash assistance to 50 vulnerable families (9850 AFN per family) in Nili and Shahrestan districts of Daykundi. The recipients were displaced widows who had lost their husbands to recent violence, women provides of their families and those forcibly displaced with their lands and property confiscated.
2400 USD was distributed as 10,085 AFN stipends to 24 faculty and staff at Rahnaward High school. The teachers and staff have been working on voluntary basis since the Kabul collapse and this aid was crucial in light of increased Omicron rates in the country.
We are immensely grateful for the generous grants from GlobalGiving’s Coronavirus Relief Fund and the kindness of our supporters for this lifesaving assistance.
These are difficult times for people of Afghanistan and with your support, we will continue providing crucial assistance to inaccessible communities and those sidelined by major aid organizations. We will also advocate that the major aid organizations develop a balanced approach to reach all Afghan communities in a fair and balanced manner.
Thank you for your continuous support!
Amid the health and socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19, Afghanistan is facing a humanitarian crisis this winter that is deteriorating every day. Tens of thousands of Afghans are at high risk of famine and the mercy of winter weather. The situation is most dangerous for those communities stigmatized by race and religion and who are systematically targeted by extremist groups. Hazaras, easily distinguishable due to their Asiatic features, are among these groups and continue to face attacks. In October alone, about 230 Hazaras died in targeted attacks in Hazara mosques in Kunduz and Kandahar and in other targeted attacks in Dashe Barchi, a Hazara slum in Kabul. Thousands have been forcibly displaced from their homes in Daikundi, Urozgan, Helmand, Herat, Kandahar and Balkh. They are without basic necessities and at the mercy of harsh winter, famine, and systematic attacks that pose serious threat and urgency.
After the collapse of the Afghan government and the ensuing chaos, Bamyan Foundation lost important connections on the ground as networks dispersed and individuals and their families had to flee. However, the Hazara diaspora communities in the United States, Australia and Europe have sprung into action to help Hazara communities in Afghanistan and refugees arriving in Pakistan. In the past few months, the Foundation has worked to help streamline these efforts from the diaspora to:
(a) elevate individual-level efforts among the diaspora into an organizational level;
(b) create partnerships or a coalition of vetted grassroots Hazara and broader Afghan diaspora organizations in the West and community leaders on the ground to collaborate on humanitarian and educational initiatives; and
(c) connect with new sponsors/donors, grant makers, and partners in the United states to mitigate a humanitarian catastrophe among the Hazaras of Afghanistan and refugees in Pakistan.
While some large organizations recognize this same need, the Foundation and our grassroots partners have the ability to identify and distribute aid directly to the vulnerable Hazara population in Afghanistan. Because of volunteer nature of our organization and our small size, donations are passed on with minimal overhead and administrative fees.
It is encouraging that the diaspora communities have begun to collaborate. The Foundation’s grassroots partners and community leaders have already distributed aid in Kabul, Kandahar, Bamyan, Daikundi, Ghanzi, Herat, and Uruzgan on a limited scale. With this crucial avenue of support and with financial contributions, we can play an effective role in mitigating a humanitarian disaster among Afghanistan’s most marginalized and at risk community.
The Foundation has identified approximately 3,000 families in Kabul and thousands more displaced in the provinces facing severe food shortages and at the mercy of cold winter. Our initial aid package will cover approximately 250 families in Kabul and Daikundi in Afghanistan and refugees in Quetta, Pakistan. In collaboration with our diaspora partners and community leaders on the ground, we will provide either cash assistance or a family aid package that will include rice, flour, cooking oil, and wood or coal for heating.
The impact of this support can be life-saving for these 250 families as they try to survive the coming months, but the urgency and need on the ground is far greater. With your help, we hope to provide a larger aid package in January to reach more at-risk families.
Thank you for your support in these difficult times.
Timor Karimy + Bamyan Foundation Team
Afghanistan is going through a surge in COVID-19 infection rates, also referred to as the third wave, that began in late spring this year. Once again, the pandemic has disrupted the academic year. The Ministry of Education issued a directive to close schools on May 28. The schools finally reopened on July 24.
The Delta variant appears to be driving the surge. Among the factors that are contributing to the high infection rates is a lack of adherence to public health guidance, such as social distancing and wearing masks. Moreover, there is shame and stigma associated with contracting the virus that reduces reporting to the authorities. According to Reuters, 1.5% of the population has been vaccinated so far.
Furthermore, lack of access to oxygen is one of the main drivers of the high mortality rate among COVID-19 patients. The most marginalized have the least access to such life-saving equipment. We are exploring options and communicating with community leaders in Kabul to raise funds to buy oxygen tanks/capsules for the most vulnerable segments of our communities.
As for our schools, infection rates have been lower in Ghor and Bamyan compared to Kabul. Once again, our immediate attention is focused on helping our largest partner, Marefat High School, located in Kabul, stay solvent during these difficult times. Besides scholarships, we will provide stipends to teachers/staff at Marefat. We will provide more details in the next report.
In addition to the pandemic, the security situation has deteriorated in Afghanistan due to the ongoing US troop withdrawal and increased attacks and rapid advance of the Taliban. They have captured more territory in recent weeks, which is cause for serious concern for all peace-loving Afghans, particularly the Hazaras. Thousands have fled their areas to neighboring districts. There is a growing sense of anxiety and fear in Hazara communities due to Taliban threats, and in light of the Taliban massacre of the Hazaras in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Though all Afghans have suffered from terrorism and Taliban attacks, Hazaras are systematically targeted on the basis of ethnicity and religion. Despite the school reopening directive on July 24 by the Ministry of Education, it is unlikely that schools will resume in the recently captured areas.
Women are another major target of the Taliban and other associated terrorist groups. They are the most vulnerable group when there is a spike in violence and instability. In areas that the Taliban have recently seized, unverified reports indicate that the Taliban are demanding that local leaders provide information on unmarried girls and unmarried/widowed women ages 15-40, according to Afghan news outlets Etialatroz and Hashte Sobh. Reports further indicate that women are fleeing to neighboring districts and provinces to escape the advancing Taliban. Again, this developing dynamic will have serious implications for youth education, particularly girls’ education. Those girls who were dreaming of universities only a few months ago are at-risk of being married early to relatives - just to avoid Taliban capture.
We will be in close communication with the community leaders in Kabul and other provinces in Afghanistan and explore avenues to provide support in the form of teacher stipends in our schools, oxygen supplies to those who are suffering from COVID-19 infections, and relief to those who have been displaced—in particular, women—by Taliban attacks.
Your support will make a huge difference! Thank you.
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