Nasir Farhan

At a time when Afghanistan is being ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic, front-line responders, such as Dr. Nasir, continue to stay and deliver.

Dr. Nasir Farhan has only been a doctor for a year. But he is now facing the biggest challenge of his life as one of 40 medical staff (16 doctors, 24 nurses) responding to the COVID-19 outbreak in Hirat city in the west of Afghanistan.

“I have been here since the beginning of the outbreak,” he said while putting on his personal protective equipment, which consists of a full-body gown, plastic sleeves to cover his shoes, gloves, medical mask and goggles. This is part of his daily routine as he prepares to see patients in the former paediatric hospital that has since been converted to a COVID-19 isolation ward.

Health workers such as Dr. Nasir, who are providing direct care to patients, are particularly at risk of getting the virus and often underprotected and overworked. On any given day, nine doctors are required to provide 24-hour care to some 80 patients who are in urgent need of medical care.

“We fear we don’t have enough protective equipment and ventilators”, said Dr. Nasir.

A new health facility with 150 beds has just been built to accommodate additional COVID-19 patients. As of 9 August, 36,829 people in Afghanistan are confirmed to have COVID-19 and 1,294 people have died (58 of whom are healthcare workers). Almost 10 per cent of the total confirmed COVID-19 cases are among healthcare staff.