The Taliban have pledged their readiness to cooperate with healthcare workers instead of killing them, as fear of a coronavirus epidemic spreads in Afghanistan.
Whatever reservations the militants previously held over eradicating the crippling disease, they have now clearly grasped the dangers posed by the pandemic sweeping the rest of the world.
In the past, the military organisation have been accused of impeding the work of doctors.
‘The Islamic Emirate via its Health Commission assures all international health organizations and WHO of its readiness to cooperate and coordinate with them in combating the coronavirus,’ said Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban’s spokesman, on Twitter, using the term the group uses to describe itself.
Afghanistan currently has 22 confirmed coronavirus cases, with concerns growing particularly over the danger of infections among the thousands of Afghans crossing the border with Iran – one of the worst-affected nations.
Zabihullah Mujahid, another Taliban spokesman, told Reuters fighters were encouraging people to listen to health workers and messages broadcast by Mullahs, and would force anyone not obeying to comply.
‘Our Mujahideen are helping the health workers to spread out the messages about the dangers of COVID-19 among the public in our controlled areas,’ he said.
Religious scholars would also be consulted over whether gatherings in mosques should be suspended if the health scare intensified, he added.
A Taliban commander in southern Helmand province said the group would provide what services it could for people who became infected, but added that they neither had adequate facilities nor trained personnel to deal with an epidemic.