Waiving Rent and Making Masks, Afghans Meet Coronavirus With Kindness

Shared by: Muhammad B.R.
1st April, 2020 | www.nytimes.com
The health crisis, which has become a fresh test of survival for a country where life has been a daily fight for decades, has provoked a shared sense of responsibility and spontaneous acts of generosity.

KABUL, Afghanistan — Around the time his hometown turned into the epicenter of coronavirus in Afghanistan and the government began a lockdown, Mohamed Kareem Tawain, an 80-year-old dentist in the western city of Herat, had a dream one night: that he took some money from his wife to distribute for charity, but found no one on the streets to give it to.

“When I came to the clinic the next morning and interpreted my dream, I knew it had a direct connection to the coronavirus,” Mr. Tawain said. “That morning, I decided I would waive the rent for the 10 shops I own,” which comes to about $6,000.

The virus is spreading across Afghanistan at a time when the country is grappling with a raging war with the Taliban, an election dispute that has split the government and brought a $1 billion aid reduction from the United States as punishment, and a dire economy that has plunged about half the population below the poverty line.

In such a moment of need, ordinary Afghans have stepped up to share the little that they have, tapping into a culture of generosity, volunteerism and care within the community that many feared had been eroded by decades of war, survival-first imperatives, greed, and corruption.

The shared sense of responsibility for easing the pain of an impending health crisis is turning into another test of survival for a country where life has been a daily fight for decades.

Across Afghanistan, many landlords have waived rent, in some cases until the virus threat recedes. Tailors have handed out thousands of homemade face masks. Youth groups and athletes have delivered food to hospitals and families in destitution. Local television stations have run live fund-raising events and a newspaper has championed a campaign of rent reduction. Wedding halls and private schools have volunteered to be turned into hospitals.
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