KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — As in many Afghan households, dinner at Dr. Yousuf Aryubi’s home meant the whole family — his mother, his siblings, their children — sitting on the floor together around a mat laid with food on the carpet.
During one recent dinner, Aryubi confided to his youngest brother that he was worried. A patient he’d seen that morning had a cough and high fever.
Within two weeks, Aryubi and two of his siblings were dead, and dozens of family members were infected with the coronavirus. Most crushing for them: they assumed the symptoms spreading among them were just a bad flu because the hospital never told them the results of their coronavirus tests, Aryubi’s youngest brother, Behtarin Paktiawal told The Associated Press.
The trajectory of the family’s tragedy points to how a broken-down health system, slow government response and public attitudes have left Afghanistan deeply vulnerable to the global pandemic.
After billions of dollars in international money, much of it from the U.S., the Afghan capital barely has a hospital that works. Amid the ongoing war, massive government corruption has left resources depleted, institutions dysfunctional, and the health care system ill-equipped to deal with even basic ailments.
Afghans have become increasingly poor, with 54% of the population earning less than $1.9 a day in 2019, a rate likely mounting amid the pandemic. The country has had more than 11,000 confirmed coronavirus infections and more than 219 deaths, but the numbers are likely higher.
The Aryubi family lives in a single building in a middle-class district of Kabul — Dr. Aryubi, a 53-year-old pediatrician, with his wife and two of his four children; […]