By Nargis Amini
Amid the emergence of a new COVID-19 variant, the only hospital treating patients with the virus in the central province of Bamyan has closed, and all prevention efforts have been halted after donors stopped funding the project, said the doctor in charge of the program.
The hospital was closed on October 31, and the 10 patients who were still recovering were sent home when the Asian Development Bank stopped funding the project after 18 months, said doctor Hussain Ali Mostamandyar, the former director of the COVID-19 task force in Bamyan province.
Around 193 personnel, including 50 women, were working as part of the project which included 150 full-time staff at the hospital, and 43 vaccinators who were working in the city and districts.
The COVID-19 hospital in Bamyan had a capacity of 20 patients at a time, and also received patients from neighboring Ghor, Parwan, and Daikundi provinces.
“No services have been offered to the COVID-19 patients in Bamyan for around one month. If nothing is done to resume the activities of the hospital for the winter, people will suffer,” Mostamandyar warned in an interview with Rukhshana Media.
When the Asian Development Bank stopped funding the hospital a month ago, Mostamandyar said the plan was to pause the prevention efforts for 20 days, after which WHO was supposed to fund the project.
The closure of the hospital comes amid the designation of a newly identified COVID-19 variant, Omicron, as a variant of “concern” by the World Health Organization. This has led several countries to take measures, including imposing travel bans, to prevent its rapid spread.
The Taliban health officials in the province say the COVID-19 prevention project will resume soon, but they did not provide any timeline.
As the winter is approaching and the country is facing “the worst humanitarian crisis on Earth,” according to the World Food Program, with half of the population marching toward starvation, Reuters news agency reported that the World Bank “is finalizing a proposal to deliver up to $500 million from a frozen Afghanistan aid fund to humanitarian agencies.”
It is not clear when the funding will be released or when it will reach the local community, like the only COVID-19 hospital in Bamyan.
“The hospital was a crucial health care center for COVID-19 patients in Bamyan since the start of the pandemic. Now with the only COVID-19 center closed, the fourth wave amid the [emergence of] the new COVID-19 variant would be catastrophic for the people,” said Ali Aqa Elahi, a doctor who worked at COVID-19 hospital in the province.