Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

UNICEF takes services closer to the children and women in Afghanistan

By Inuwa Yao and Athanas Makundi
©UNICEF Afghanistan/2020/ Mohammedi
06 June 2020

­­HELMAND, Afghanistan, June 6, 2020 – In a strategic move to bring closer lifesaving interventions and basic services to women and children in some of the previously inaccessible areas, UNICEF recently, opened the first ever UN agency outpost station in Lashkargah town in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan.

H.E. Gen Yasin, the Governor of Helmand, accompanied by Toby Lanzer, the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Afghanistan, Aboubacar Kampo, UNICEF representative Afghanistan, and other UN dignitaries graced the historic inauguration event.

“For a long time, the challenges facing children, women and families in Helmand province have remained formidable,” said HE. Gen Yasin, the Governor of Helmand during the inauguration ceremony. “UNICEF’s plan to move closer to the people of Helmand against all odds is indeed a welcome commitment.”

UNICEF Afghanistan/2020/ Mohammedi
UNICEF Polio team accompanied by Aboubacar Kampo, UNICEF representative Afghanistan being ferried across the river to populations who have been cut off from supply of basic services in Helmand, South of Afghanistan

The polio transmission has worsened in these provinces due to high levels of insecurity and population movement in search of safety and basic services. Children have not been vaccinated for a longtime which explains why 20 of the 29 confirmed polio cases in 2019, were from the southern region. 

“The outposts are strategic for the polio programme and other vaccine preventable diseases for children,” said Mohammed Mohammedi, UNICEF Chief of Immunization for the polio programme, “Along with the vaccinations, UNICEF will provide integrated services including nutrition, education, water and sanitation, as well as strengthen routine immunization and other health services.”

The COVID-19 pandemic, which is spreading across the country, has worsened an already dire situation for children, impacting their growth and development. In response, the UNICEF polio program halted all its campaign activities and prioritized the COVID-19 response along with other programmes sections and partners.

The outposts remain the quickest entry point to reach and protect vulnerable communities against the COVID-19 virus in these areas.

“Handwashing with soap is one of the best ways to protect people from COVID-19 infection,” said Aboubacar Kampo. “Afghanistan needs over 20,000,000 pieces of soap to support the most deprived population in the country to protect themselves against COVID-19.”

The UNICEF polio programme has so far procured 8.1 million bars of soap.  Over 3.2 million bars have already been distributed to vulnerable communities by social mobilizers equipped with protective gear in polio hotspot areas of the southern and eastern regions. Communities are educated about COVID-19 preventive measures and proper handwashing is demonstrated.

Additionally, personal protection equipment including face masks, gloves, pump for spray, beds for the COVID patients and a generator have been procured by UNICEF and distributed in the health facilities in Helmand.

UNICEF is committed to bringing integrated child-focused services closer to children and thanks to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for their generous support towards the construction of the outposts. Every child in Afghanistan deserves a fair chance for survival and to be protected.