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Afghanistan: Weekly Humanitarian Update (5 – 11 October 2020) | ReliefWeb.

[Situation Report] [Source: OCHA] [Posted: 14 Oct 2020] [Originally Published: 14 Oct 2020]

South: Continued fighting resulted in civilian displacement and casualties.

Fighting between the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and a non-state armed group (NSAG) continued near Lashkargah city in Hilmand province. According to initial estimates from local authorities, the fighting that began on 11 October has reportedly displaced some 5,000 families (approximately 35,000 people) and killed or injured nearly 200 people. This number could change as assessments are ongoing. Affected areas include Bolan and Babaje in Lashkargah city, Nahr-e-Saraj, Nad-e-Ali/Marja and Nawa-e-Barakzaiy districts in Hilmand province and some parts of Maywand district in Kandahar province.

Since 12 October, two humanitarian assessment teams have been working in areas of displacement to assess needs and have so far verified nearly 500 internally displaced people. Some displaced families have settled in rented houses, markets or are staying with host communities in Lashkargah city. The main road between Kandahar and Lashkargah remains inaccessible. Electricity and telecommunication lines have been disrupted in parts of Kandahar and Hilmand province which has affected people's ability to communicate and humanitarian partners' ability to conduct assessments. Several health facilities are reportedly closed, while others have reduced their services to trauma care only, depriving tens of thousands of people of access to health services.

Also in the reporting period, four civilians were reportedly wounded in Dehrawud, Uruzgan province and approximately 200 people were displaced within the district. Furthermore, according to initial reports from Qalat district in Zabul province, nearly 700 people were displaced from various districts of the provincial capital. Ongoing hostilities in Shah Wali Kot, Maywand and other contested districts of Kandahar province resulted in damage to culverts and roads. A primary school in Zheray district was also reportedly destroyed by fighting. According to the initial reports from local authorities, some 700 civilians were displaced from Shah Wali Kot, Maywand and other insecure districts to Kandahar city and surrounding areas. Interagency teams are assessing their needs.

In the reporting period, interagency teams verified 1,811 internally displaced persons (IDPs) displaced by conflict in Panjwayi, Zheray and Kandahar city and 1,089 IDPs have been verified in Shinkay and Qalat districts of Zabul. In addition, 21 flood-affected families (about 147 people) from Parwan were displaced to Kandahar. Response coordination is underway both for conflict and flood-affected IDPs.

West: Civilians killed and injured by violence.

The security situation remained unstable with reports of violence including abductions continuing to affect civilians and aid operations. During the reporting period, five civilians were reportedly killed and 12 wounded by improvised explosive device (IED) detonations in Hirat and Ghor provinces and three civilians were reportedly wounded by a rocket that hit a house in Farah city. A four-month-old boy in the Najak-ha area of Qala-e-Naw city, Badghis province was confirmed to have Polio which is the second confirmed case of the disease in the last five months in Badghis province. From 3 to 8 October, 12,537 Afghan nationals returned from Iran through the Islam Qala border crossing, of which 574 people received post-arrival assistance. This figure represents a 26 per cent decrease in returns compared to the same period last week.

Centre: Civilian casualties from multiple IED detonations.

With incidents reported in several provinces (Kabul, Kapisa, and Maidan Wardak, Ghazni, Paktya, Paktika and Khost), the security situation in the centre and south-east remained volatile and unstable. Six IED incidents were reported including in the city and province of Kabul. For example, a roadside IED detonated on a vehicle in Omar Khel village in Tagab district, Kapisa province and reportedly killing all three civilians onboard. On 6 October, an IED that detonated near a school resulted in some structural damage to the building in the Bagh-e Shah area, Gardez District in Paktya Province.

1,148 flood-affected people received assistance in Logar and Maidan Wardak provinces, and 1,771 flood-affected people in Logar province were identified to receive assistance. 560 IDPs received assistance in Daykundi and an additional 469 IDPs were identified to receive assistance in Logar province. Needs assessments are ongoing in Kabul for a reportedly 6,482 people displaced by conflict in Kabul.

North-east: 2,450 people displaced by fighting.

Fighting continued in several parts of the north-east reportedly causing displacement and the deaths of six civilians and injury of three others. In the Qulbers and Abdal areas of Taloqan city in Takhar Province, 350 households (approximately 2,450 people) were displaced. Some 1,099 households (approximately 7,693 people) displaced by conflict were found to be eligible for humanitarian assistance. Humanitarian aid reached 1,862 conflict-affected households (approximately 13,034 people).

East: Casualties from IEDs in Laghman Province.

The security situation continued to deteriorate, affecting civilians. On 5 October, eight people were reportedly killed and more than 20 injured by an IED detonation in the Sultan Ghazi Baba area in Mehtarlam City, Laghman Province. IED attacks targeting local authorities in Laghman Province also reportedly resulted in several casualties. On 4 October,18 health facilities were closed in Nuristan due to staff protesting unpaid salaries affecting some 65,000 to 80,000 people. Out of 9,233 people assessed, 5,362 people were recommended to receive immediate humanitarian assistance. A total of 22,995 people received humanitarian assistance comprising of 13,832 IDPs; 1,050 undocumented returnees; 378 people impacted by natural disasters and 658 people from host communities; and 7,077 people received unconditional seasonal support/food rations as part of the COVID-19 response.

North: 1,897 people receive humanitarian aid from an NGO through AHF.

The general security situation remained volatile with a continuation of a high number of security incidents reported notably in Balkh Province which also has 98 per cent of the people confirmed to have COVID-19 in the north. Interagency teams verified 1,974 people displaced by conflict to receive humanitarian assistance. 1,897 people including people in protracted displacement, host communities and recent returnees from Iran received COVID-19 prevention information and hygiene kits from an NGO with support from the Afghanistan Humanitarian Fund.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit

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She Hunts Viral Rumors About Real Viruses | The New York Times.

[Oct. 13, 2020]

For Heidi Larson, the founder of the Vaccine Confidence Project, dispelling vaccine hesitancy means building trust -- and avoiding the term "anti-vaxxer."

Heidi Larson walks to her office at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Heidi Larson walks to her office at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Edu Bayer for The New York Times.

Jenny Anderson writes:

In late September, Heidi Larson, an anthropologist and the founder of the Vaccine Confidence Project in London, sat on a Zoom call with the project team for Verified, a United Nations-led group that is working to combat a rising tide of misinformation about potential vaccines for Covid-19.

Dr. Larson, 63, is arguably the world’s foremost rumor manager. She has spent two decades in war torn, poor and unstable countries around the globe, as well as in rich and developed ones, striving to understand what makes people hesitant to take vaccines. She is obsessed with the origin and evolution of rumors, which she calls “collective problem solving,” and has come to see most anti-vaxxers — a term she considers too oppositional — not as uneducated, science-denying individualists but as people with genuine questions and doubts in search of guidance. “This is a public cry to say, ‘Is anyone listening?’ she writes in her recently released book “Stuck: How Vaccine Rumors Start and Why they Don’t Go Away.”

These are busy days for a rumor manager, as they are for rumormongers. The Vaccine Confidence Project, which began in 2010, comprises more than a dozen staff with backgrounds in political science, psychology, mathematical modeling, epidemiology and more. They monitor news, social-media outlets and community conversations in nearly every country and in 63 languages, to catch wind of rumors that might undermine the acceptance of critical vaccines. Above all, with hard data gathered from the many surveys and questionnaires the team administers, they have shown that what once seemed like the ghost of a problem is something troublingly tangible and real.

In September, the team published a paper in The Lancet that mapped shifts in vaccine confidence in 149 countries from 2015 through 2019, with data from more than 284,000 adults. For instance, in Indonesia during that period, the perception that vaccines are safe fell from 64 percent to 50 percent after Muslim leaders questioned the safety of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and issued a fatwa, or religious ruling, that the vaccine contained forbidden ingredients. In Poland, a highly organized anti-vaccine movement has helped drive down vaccine confidence from 64 percent in November 2018 to 53 percent by December 2019.

With a global pandemic now in full stride, and vaccines of varying quality vying for release, the consequences of hesitancy could not be higher. In the United States alone, a study by the Pew Research Center found, the share of adult Americans who say they would “definitely” or “probably” get a Covid-19 vaccine fell from 72 percent in May to 51 percent in September.

This trend is often blamed on the viral spread of misinformation on the internet, and it plays a role. In the Zoom meeting with the Verified team, Alex de Figueiredo, the lead statistician for the Vaccine Confidence Project, presented findings from a study they had conducted testing how negative social media posts might affect a person’s decision to take a Covid-19 vaccine.

Three thousand people in Britain were asked: If a Covid-19 vaccine existed, would you definitely take it? Fifty-four percent of respondents said yes. Then most were shown a series of negative social media posts, including a post from David Icke, an English conspiracy theorist, claiming that a Big Pharma whistle-blower had said that “97 percent of corona vaccine recipients will become infertile.” After exposure, the percentage of the study’s respondents who expressed a willingness to take a vaccine dropped more than 6 percentage points.

For a vaccine to create herd immunity — Dr. Larson prefers the term “community immunity,” to avoid conjuring images of animal herding — in a population, 60 to 70 percent of people need to take it, scientists expect. Even a 6 percentage point decline in acceptance could endanger that goal.

Vaccine confidence “is every bit as important as how effective the vaccine is,” said Daniel Salmon, director of the Institute for Vaccine Safety at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Vaccines don’t save lives. Vaccinations save lives.”

But to focus on the inaccuracy of any given rumor is to miss the point, Dr. Larson has learned. During the call with the Verified team, a young woman with that group asked Dr. Larson how they should respond to the data. Shouldn’t they target social media companies and press them to take down the anti-vaccine posts?

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Ten crises that need your attention | ReliefWeb.

[News and Press Release] [Source: OCHA] [Posted: 13 Oct 2020] [Originally Published: 13 Oct 2020] [Origin: View original]

COVID-19 has hit dozens of countries that are also dealing with humanitarian crises. Rather than divert vital funding from these humanitarian operations, which are keeping tens of millions of people alive, the Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19 has required significant additional funding.

As of the end of September, 259 million people need our help. This is almost triple the number of people in need at the same time last year. Critical funding provides these people with life-saving support including food; malnutrition treatment; cholera, measles and polio prevention; emergency education and protection. But if funding for these efforts is diverted, millions of the world’s most vulnerable people will lose their lives.

We highlight 10 crises that the international community cannot neglect.

Read more on Exposure.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit

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