Building social cohesion crucial during Covid-19 crisis in Afghanistan

8 Jun 2020

Building social cohesion crucial during Covid-19 crisis in Afghanistan

KABUL - In the context of Afghanistan’s long-running conflict, building social cohesion and cultivating a sense of solidarity are essential for fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, said community leaders in a series of UNAMA-backed radio programmes airing across Afghanistan.

In the interactive shows – which began in May and will run through June across 18 provinces in the country – experts and radio hosts answered questions posed by local audiences about the pandemic’s impact on their communities and highlighted the urgent need for a reduction in violence to give respite to families coping with the pandemic.

The pre-recorded discussions centred on ways to convince the parties to the conflict to reduce the violence and to instil a sense of responsibility among all Afghans to call for an end to the fighting.

“COVID-19 affects everyone the same way,” said Bashir Mohammad, a radio listener in Kandahar. “Therefore, we must all fight it together rather than fighting each other.”

Samullah, from Logar, offered a similar perspective: “We are requesting a truce to be declared so everybody can stand against COVID-19 and support infected families.”

An overarching refrain during the radio broadcasts was that all parties to the conflict should stop fighting to provide the necessary humanitarian space for healthcare workers to reach all communities currently facing challenges from the pandemic.

“Even to raise awareness about COVID-19, reducing violence is necessary,” said Shafiq Poya, a journalist from Takhar. “The parties involved in this conflict should know that the risk of this virus is serious and widespread, and access to humanitarian aid is important for people’s safety.”

Sema Zargar, director of Logar’s Department of Women’s Affairs, offered a similar perspective. “In the past, we might have only one widow in an entire village, but today it is not unusual for each family to have a widow because of conflict,” she said. “The only way to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic is to have peace and work together to support vulnerable families.”

Participants in the programmes agreed that building social cohesion is essential to prevent future conflict that may arise if anybody feels stigmatized or is directly excluded from health services or other assistance. Building solidarity, they stressed, is crucial, particularly in supporting the groups most vulnerable to the conflict and to COVID-19.

The series of radio programmes supported by UNAMA have been broadcast so far in Kunduz, Logar, Kandahar and Helmand, and will continue across the country in another 14 provinces to highlight the challenges related to COVID-19 and to underscore the importance of a reduction in violence to enable humanitarian workers to assist those most in need during this difficult time.

The discussion has extended to social media as well, with UNAMA’s partner radio stations encouraging their listeners to participate in the conversation and talk about matters important to their families and communities in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and Afghanistan’s conflict.

UNAMA works with various institutions and individuals, including community leaders, youth groups, women and local media stations to create platforms – using radio, social media and television – for Afghans to engage in dialogue on pressing issues affecting their communities.

In accordance with its mandate as a political mission, UNAMA supports the Afghan people and government to achieve peace and stability. UNAMA backs conflict prevention and resolution, promoting inclusion and social cohesion, as well as strengthening regional cooperation. The Mission supports effective governance, promoting national ownership and accountable institutions that are built on respect for human rights.