Thursday 10 June, 2021: Following reports that Afghanistan has exhausted its existing stock of COVID-19 vaccines—with doses promised by the WHO delayed until August—and an estimated 740% increase in reported cases since 1 May, Save the Children is calling for urgent attention and vaccines from the international community to protect Afghan children from the impacts of the third wave of COVID-19.
Athena Rayburn, Director of Advocacy and Communications at Save the Children in Afghanistan, said:
“Afghanistan is in the grip of a third wave of COVID-19 at a time when the country is already struggling with increasing conflict and a drought that is exacerbating an already devastating hunger crisis. While many wealthy countries are reaching 50-60 percent full vaccination rates for adults, countries like Afghanistan have once again been left behind—and it is children who are paying the price.
“Afghanistan has now exhausted its existing vaccine stock, which numbered less than one million doses. Less than one percent of the population have been fully vaccinated. In late May, just six weeks after schools reopened in early March, the government announced again the closure of schools in provinces across the country to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. This will have a serious impact on the country’s children, whose learning has already been disrupted by years of war.
“Save the Children estimates that children in Afghanistan have already lost up to 13 percent of their lifetime schooling, with figures even higher for girls at almost 21 percent. With recent school closures and this latest surge in cases, that number is likely to grow, with many children unlikely to return to school at all. Remote learning opportunities are extremely limited in Afghanistan, where many children have little to no access to internet or technology that would enable them to learn while schools are closed.
“The international community must step up and correct its shameful failure to protect the most vulnerable children from bearing the brunt of this pandemic. What we have learned in the past year is that none of us is safe from COVID-19 until we are all safe. To protect Afghan children’s future and bring about a true end to this pandemic for all, vaccines must be urgently provided to Afghanistan.”