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Red Cross Urges Global Support To Curb New Afghan COVID-19 Wave

A doctor treats a COVID-19 patient at a hospital in Khost, southeastern Afghanistan.

A new wave of COVID-19 is surging across Afghanistan, prompting humanitarian organizations to call for urgent global support to curb the virus in one of the most deprived nations in the world.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) on February 23 called for worldwide support for health and testing services, as well as for vaccinations to slow the spread of the coronavirus, saying it is stretching the country’s fragile health-care system.

“A new wave is hitting Afghanistan hard,” the IFRC said in a statement. “Testing is inadequate, and the World Health Organization reports that almost half of tested samples are coming back positive, indicating an alarming spread of the virus.”

Only 10 percent of the country’s estimated 38 million population is vaccinated, the aid organization said, adding that few people observe hygiene practices such as keeping social distances or wearing masks.

Dozens of COVID-19 health facilities were forced to close due to a lack of medicines, essential medical supplies, and a lack of funds to pay for utilities and salaries of health workers, the statement added.

A physician at the country's largest COVID-specialized hospital, which only has 100 beds, told dpa that almost 90 percent of the beds were occupied and three to four patients were dying every day.

“Our patient numbers are increasing on a daily basis and more people are visiting the hospital,” said Tariq Akbari, chief physician at the state-run Afghan-Japan Hospital in Kabul.

According to reports, only a few COVID-19 hospitals remain functional in the country. Its fragile health-care system is suffering under the Taliban.