U.S. Worst Afghanistan Safest Country During COVID19 Pandemic — REALLY?
U.S. COVID19 positive cases and the resulting death numbers are so notorious that my concerned mother recently suggested I should come to Afghanistan for safety. As ironic as it may sound to run away for safety from the U.S. to Afghanistan, the official COVID19 data depicts destitute Afghanistan far safer than the world’s richest & most powerful country.
The U.S. has about 25 percent of the world’s COVID19 fatalities with more than 33+K deaths as of April 17 — that’s higher than any other country, higher even than all the Asian countries combined!
In Afghanistan, only 906 positive COVID19 cases and 30 deaths have been confirmed so far, according to UNOCHA. If you’re a math person, you can safely say that the U.S. is the worst place in the world to be during this pandemic crisis, and Afghanistan is among the top safest. Even in proportion to population, the U.S. COVID19 cases point to 0.12% (340 million) infection rate while Afghanistan’s stand at 0.0025% (35 million).
However, there is one piece of crucial fact that can significantly change this assessment.
In the U.S. more than 3.5 million tests have been conducted so far. In Afghanistan, as of April 16, less than 4,500 tests were reported. As such, more tests are done in the U.S. every hour (more than 6.5K) than all the tests done in Afghanistan in over a month.
The U.S. infection rate per every 100 tests is about 20% — only second to the UK where it is reported at 30%. Afghanistan’s infection rate, based on tests executed, stands at 20.1% — a bit higher even than the U.S.
So, could it be that if Afghanistan conducts 3.5 million tests its COVID19 cases would fly up to hundreds of thousands? Answers to this question may vary, but in early March, Afghan health minister desperately warned that “millions” could be infected by COVID19.
A friend in Kabul told me that the National Security Council has imposed a strict ban on the release of COVID19 figures. “They fear that if true numbers get out, people will freak out and the situation will get chaotic…markets will collapse and it will be chaos all over,” my well-informed friend opined. Hiding true COVID19 figures is not a blame facing only Afghan Government. President Trump has repeatedly accused China of misreporting its COVID19 numbers.
This week, video of a man claiming to be suffering from COVID19 has widely been shared on social platforms among Afghans. Speaking in Pashto to his phone camera, the man alleges that his brother and sister died from Coronavirus and that he was beaten up and kicked out of a hospital in Kabul after he sought treatment there.
Lack of reliable data, in almost every sector, is Afghanistan’s long-term problem. We only know that access to healthcare, particularly in rural and insecure parts of Afghanistan, is both very limited and primitive.
Tormented by decades of brutal wars, poverty and injustices, Afghans have built strong resilience towards difficult circumstances. What people in the U.S. and in many other developed countries consider as apocalyptic during economic, social and political chaos might be real experiences for Afghans. Afghans have been there and seen them all.
Afghans do not have a rich and strong government to resort to for help and protection. In every conversation I’ve had with friends and relatives over the last month, I’ve always heard only one source of hope: God. Without any hesitation, I’ve also complemented such prayers with ‘may God save Afghans, and may God be kind and compassionate towards Afghanistan — Amen!’