Kabul, Afghanistan – When 55-year-old Khairullah from a village in Afghanistan’s northern Jawzjan province was invited to join a meeting after Friday prayers on March 27, he was not prepared for what he witnessed.
Despite the unusually cold spring weather, Khairullah, who asked for his name to be changed, and his neighbours were welcomed by Taliban fighters holding their AK-47s and dressed in complete medical PPE (personal protective equipment) for a workshop on the prevention of the coronavirus.
“It’s been about a week since the Taliban has been conducting such awareness campaigns here. They are asking people to use masks and gloves, talking about washing hands with soap, those kinds of things,” Khairullah told Al Jazeera, in a phone call from his village in the Taliban-controlled Darzaab district.
“They have cancelled all public gatherings, weddings and have asked people to pray at home instead of the mosques,” he added.
While Afghanistan has fewer than 400 confirmed cases of coronavirus, there are worries of an outbreak of the deadly virus in a country already facing years of conflict, displacement and poverty.
“We were directed by our health commission to hold public awareness campaigns, which we have undertaken in areas we control. We are also distributing pamphlets with advice on prevention of coronavirus in these districts,” Qari Khalid Hijran, who described himself as the Taliban’s newly-appointed director of public health of the Baghlan province, told Al Jazeera.
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