TOKYO: A Japanese nurse active in Afghanistan has reported about a dire situation crippling the country.
In Herat, a major city in western Afghanistan, the novel coronavirus started to spread after the turn of the year and food shortages are becoming serious, Chie Kuranodan, 44, from Doctors Without Borders (MSF), told a meeting held in Tokyo on Saturday.
Kuranodan entered Herat around the time when the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in August 2021. She is taking care of COVID-19 patients at an MSF facility in the city.
The cumulative number of novel coronavirus cases confirmed in Afghanistan stood at about 160,000 as of Saturday while the country’s COVID-19 death toll totaled some 7,400, according to Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health.
At a time when the highly transmissible omicron variant of the novel coronavirus has been raging in the world, “I’m making preparations while bracing for the worst-case scenario” of an explosive spread of infections in Afghanistan, Kuranodan said. She is increasingly alert, saying: “We started to see a wave of infections several days ago. It is finally here.”
Previously, the MSF facility handled 60-90 cases involving outpatients a day. The number surged to 160-170 in the past three days, according to Kuranodan.
Over the Taliban regime, Western countries that are seeking the establishment of an inclusive government represented by women and minorities have suspended aid supplies.
Afghanistan has been hit by a humanitarian crisis such as widespread famine. “Food shortages are an acute problem” in Herat, Kuranodan said.
“A food crisis is certainly occurring,” she said, noting that some people come to the MSF facility for food prepared for inpatients.
Meanwhile, Kuranodan said that MSF is “maintaining independence from the Taliban,” which are often criticized for human rights abuses, such as oppression of women. “We are in a good relationship with the Taliban.”
When public health officials from the Taliban visited the MSF facility, Kuranodan took them around, she said.