Coronavirus (970) Coordinated community engagement in Afghanistan

5 September, 2020

Full text: https://www.who.int/health-cluster/news-and-events/news/Afghanistan-RCCE...

The Afghanistan Health Cluster moved swiftly to put Risk Communication and Community Engagement (RCCE) coordination mechanisms in place to address the fears and misconceptions that were circulating around the country at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak...

Below are examples of rumours and misperceptions, full text here:

https://www.who.int/health-cluster/news-and-events/news/Rumours-Answers-...

- Many community members reportedly believe that the pandemic is either not real or a conspiracy because it does not affect real Muslims. Some say that COVID-19 is a test sent by God due to the evil deeds of non-Muslims, or a divine punishment targeted towards the hypocrites they therefore proceeding the mass religious gatherings. This view is supported by some mullahs, who encourage the communities to be charitable as a way to prevent the spread of the virus.

- COVID-19 is a biological weapon.

- The entire thing is just a conspiracy. There is no such virus even existing at all or not at least in Afghanistan. We have no relatives/friends who have gotten the virus, so it means there is no such a virus.

- Large swathes of people think “it is like HIV”.

- Some patients with symptoms still do not want to go to the hospital for check-up to avoid being stigmatized as contaminated with the virus, which can lead to hatred against them. People are hiding if they think they have COVID-19 due to the fear of stigmatization and lack of respect for those who have survived it. People fear stigmatization, being hated and being socially shamed for having COVID-19 or even for having a test for the virus. Some people are believed to be “hiding” returnees from Iran or visitors from Herat in their homes, even if sick.

- People fear, "If I die of this disease of corona then no one will come to my funeral." because sometimes if a community knows that someone died of COVID-19 they will not attend the funeral, so their relatives try to hide that fact.

- Other community members consider the pandemic as a joke and make fun of the preventive measures and PPE adopted by staff.

Comment (NPW): THis is the most detailed national analysis of COVID rumnours/misperceptions that I have come across, and I congratulate the researchers for their work, especially in such a challenging environment.

Best wishes, Neil

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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - www.hifa.org ), a global community with more than 19,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on six global forums in four languages in collaboration with WHO. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: facebook.com/HIFAdotORG neil@hifa.org