UNICEF AFGHANISTAN HEROES AMID COVID19
Kabul, Afghanistan, 18 May 2020 - COVID-19 Pandemic has affected all of us in many different ways. Yet, most of us, if not all, are working hard driving change for children, whether remotely or by being in the field.
Join us to get to know some of UNICEF Afghanistan heroes and frontline humanitarian workers who are delivering results for children amid COVID19.
Lameha Sherzad is the Communication for Development (C4D) Officer working out of UNICEF Jalalabad Field Office, eastern Afghanistan. Amid COVID19, Ms. Sherzad realized the importance and criticality of providing accurate educational information to mothers and children on how to protect themselves from the virus.
Sherzad has championed the establishment of Children’s studio with the leading media outlet Sharq Network. She also led the C4D response in the eastern region and initiated an innovative approach to community engagement through mobile libraries.
At the personal level, she appreciates family life even more, and believes that ultimate happiness stems from having strong and caring relationships. “I value my family, especially my mom,” says Sherzad.
“Children are most hard hit amid this pandemic,” adds Sherzad. “With lockdown, children more than ever need to play, and receive psychosocial support.”
While Sherzad hopes that this pandemic ends soon, she is encouraging children in her neighbourhood to continue to be active. “I told children in my neighbourhood to draw their favourite drawings to keep them busy and happy,” says Sherzad. “My support to children, especially those most in need has strengthened my resolve and renewed my commitment to reach children and women with lifesaving messages.”
As a frontline humanitarian worker, Bahirullah Wyaar, Education Specialist, UNICEF Central Region Field Office, Afghanistan has never stopped delivering for children. Despite lockdown, he has been travelling to the field to meet communities and ensure sustainability of community-based education.
On the personal level, the pandemic has changed his life. According to Wyaar, the social norms have changed in Afghanistan. “We usually shake hands and exchange hugs when meeting family members or friends, but now it all changed,” says Wyaar. Yet, his 90-year old grandmother Bibi Zubaida, who is suffering from Alzheimer, does not understand why the change in norms and behaviours. “My grandma keeps on asking me the same question, why I am not greeting her as usual,” adds Wyaar with a smile.
For Wyaar who was born in an insecure country, losing hope is out of the question. “Despite the unpredictability of the situation, I have never lost hope and will continue to drive results for most needy children,” says Wyaar.
Wyaar’s positive spirit extends beyond the call of duty. “Let’s respect each other, treat each other with humanity, care and respect. Let us come together as global citizens for a better cause.”
For Ahmad Shah Ahmadi, C4D Officer, Herat Field Officer, western Afghanistan, COVID19 made him even busier. He is currently working seven days a week, and enjoying it while gaining great field experience.
Ahmadi is working out of Farah province, western Afghanistan, and in some of the most difficult and conservative communities. He is also fasting as Afghanistan is marking the Holy month of Ramadan. Yet, he continues to work hard, and enjoys being on the frontline serving most vulnerable children and women. “I am proud to be a member of UNICEF family, especially now” says Ahmadi
Like most people around the world, Ahmadi hopes that the virus will be eradicated soon. “For the first time ever, the whole world is united irrelevant of religion, gender, ethnicity, race, colour,” says Ahmadi “This makes be proud to be part of this world, serving humanity.”
Abdul Khalid Saghar, Child Protection Officer, lives and works in Jalalabad, an eastern province in Afghanistan, bordering with Pakistan. In his province, summers are usually very hot, schools are off, and most families, like that of Saghar’s, plan their holidays by visiting cooler places such as the capital Kabul.
Yet, with COVID19 pandemic, everyone’s plans collapsed. “Now, everyone is pre-occupied with, and worried about their survival instead of planning summer vacation,” says Saghar.
“My seven children and my wife are under lockdown,” says Saghar. When Saghar returns home from work, his kids ask him about school re-opening. “I reassure them that schools will be opened soon, and encourage them to continue to study while at home.”
“This pandemic taught me how to think out of the box,“ says Sarghar. Through networking with community elders and volunteers, Sarghar was able to reach unreached people with critical information. At the personal level, COVID19 changed his life. “I learned how to better manage unpredictable situations and to maintain high morale,” he adds.
Like billions around the world, Saghar wishes that the situation will return back to normality.
Narges Ghafary, a C4D Officer, Herat Field Office, western Afghanistan is dynamic and passionate about her work. Growing up in a fragile context like Afghanistan, Ghafary fully understands that she needs to be emotionally strong when serving people in need.
As an Afghan young woman, Ghafary has been pushing the barriers of social norms, being at the forefront of the Coivd 19 response with C4D messages in Herat the initial hotspot. She is visiting hard to reach communities, negotiating partnerships with radio stations for free air-time, going to the border point to support child migrants returning to Afghanistan from Iran, and mobilizing young people from the youth and adolescents network to support community engagement.
On the personal level, COVID19 made Ghafary appreciate the simplest things in life. “I now value the coffee shop next to my office, meeting my friends during the weekend, hugging my nephews, and wandering among the supermarket with my mother, which I previously took for granted,” says Ghafary
As a humanitarian aid worker, Ghafary believes in what she is doing, and hopes that this pandemic ends soon. “We, the people of Afghanistan, have gone through numerous ups and downs from war and internal conflict to droughts and floods, but we survived, and we have never lost hope. We keep the faith that the best is yet to come, and we hope for a better future,” Ghafary ends.
Hashmat Latifi, Child Protection Officer in Mazar, a northern province in Afghanistan is getting used to different work modalities as the pandemic hits his province. While he enjoys face-to-face meetings with colleagues and partners, due to lockdown, he is only able to hold virtual meetings. “Despite intermittent internet, I use various modalities such as skype, cellular phone to plan, implement programmes and monitor results,” says Latifi.
As a father of four young children, the pandemic disrupted his family’s daily routine. “With closure of schools, and the spread of news about the virus, my wife and children became anxious and distressed,” says Latifi. “I am continuously trying to establish routine at home, and ensure that my family stays healthy.”
Latifi is saddened by what is happening across the world, especially in Afghanistan. “We have been living in conflict for decades, and now this pandemic exacerbates the situation, especially for the most vulnerable children,” says Latifi. “What is worse, is that I expect this lockdown has led to an increase in domestic violence and abuse against children and women.”
As a member of UNICEF Afghanistan Child Protection team, Latifi works on prevention of domestic violence and abuse, by supporting psychosocial services, especially for most marginalized children. He also works with other programme colleagues on prevention of the spread of the virus. “In the north, we were able to reach thousands of internally-displaced children with prevention and protection services amid COVID19,” says Latifi.
Latifi learned a lot from this pandemic. “I learned that life is invaluable, and we should be kind, caring to, and supportive of each other,” he adds with a smile. Latifi wishes that there comes a time where this world will be free of this virus, and that every child is protected from violence, abuse and exploitation.
Enas Obeidat, Chief, Central Region Field Office, UNICEF Afghanistan says that as a member of UNICEF family, a frontline agency, we have to expedite response efforts in support of every child in Afghanistan.
“Children in Afghanistan have endured a lot. The pandemic has worsened their situation, pushing me and my team to work hard to deliver services for children in need,” says Obeidat.
At the personal level, and given the lockdown in her home country Jordan, Obeidat was adversely impacted. “Amid COVID19, my country Jordan closed its border. This meant that I will not be able to visit my family anytime soon,” adds Obeidat.
For Obeidat, despite the acute crisis, her feelings and commitment towards children and women remain the same. “As always, I feel very satisfied in helping community’s children and women, especially those who are in dire need of our support.” “These children have a right to a decent life.”
With a smile, Obeidat adds: “The most important lesson that this pandemic taught me is not to take life for granted. It has reminded me how fragile we, as humankind, are.”
As for her wish during this period, Obeidat says that she hopes this crisis will end soon, with minimum human loss. Yet, at the personal level, she says: “On a personal level I hope to be able to see my family soon, because I miss them very much, particularly during this Holy month of Ramadan.”
Since COVID19 was officially confirmed in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan, Dr. Emal Mujadidi’s life has changed both professionally and personally. Even under lockdown, Dr. Mujadidi, who works as a Health Specialist in Kandahar field office, is in the field serving most vulnerable children and women.
“As a physician and as a father, I will never forgive myself if I did not serve these people with passion,” says Dr. Mujadidi.
“Due to Coivd19, I have visited various districts and communities previously inaccessible even to humanitarian agencies,” says Dr. Mujadidi. “We were able to provide services to children and women particularly those living in insecure and hard to reached areas.”
Dr. Mujadidi, despite Ramadan and shorter working hours, he stays late in the office working. “I think this is very best that I can do during this Holy month, helping the most in need,” says Dr. Mujadidi with pride.
Being in the frontline, and as a physician, Dr. Mujadidi is always scared for his children upon his return home. “My 4-year old daughter Reham often tells me, why are you going out every day and coming back home late, despite the fact that you told us to stay home,” says Dr. Mujadidi. "I don’t know what to respond, and it breaks my heart when I come home and can’t hug my kids.”
For Dr. Mujadidi, this period is very satisfying. “As we are marking Ramadan, I feel blessed to be able to serve most needy children and women,” says Dr. Mujadidi with satisfaction in his eyes. “I can’t express my feelings in words.”
This dire situation showed Dr. Mujadidi how people can be supportive to each other, helping each other with compassion and respect. “We need to support each other at all levels, individuals, community and the whole society, not only during COVID19, but always,” says Dr. Mujadidi.
Since Dr. Mujadidi likes poetry, the current situation reminds him of a poetry verse by a Persian poet Saadi
Human being are members of a whole – in creation of one essence and soul
If one member is afflicted with pain – other members uneasy will remain
If you have no sympathy for human pain – The name of human, you cannot retain
بنی آدام اعضاء یک دیگر ند- که در آفرینش ز یک گوهر اند
چو عضو به درد اورد روزگار – دیگر عضوها را نماند قرار
نشاید که نامت نهند آدمی – تو کز محنت دیگران بی غمی