USAID-trained Epidemiologist Vows to Work, Despite Personal Struggle with COVID-19

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Saturday, April 18, 2020
Dr. Hizbullah Jalil, USAID-trained Disease Early Warning Systems Epidemiologist

“It is no longer business as usual. Coronavirus is with us in Afghanistan”, says Dr. Hizbullah Jalil, a Zoonotic Disease Surveillance Officer, leading the Ministry of Public Health’s team investigating suspected COVID-19 cases in Afghanistan. The country is fighting several enemies: lack of security, poverty, low literacy levels, vaccine-preventable diseases, and now the highly contagious coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

In 2019, Dr. Jalil was one of six Afghan doctors sent to India to be trained in epidemiology, or infectious diseases, as part of USAID’s Disease Early Warning System project. The role of the doctors is to monitor and report accurate and timely information on disease outbreaks and seasonal trends in health. Their investigations result in quick action to lessen the burden of disease outbreaks or prevent epidemics.

On April 7, while investigating cases in eastern Afghanistan, Dr. Jalil tested positive for COVID-19. He knows exactly how he contracted the virus. “In the last few weeks, I investigated up to 80 patients per day. Which means, I spent a long time with the patients, so  that is how I got infected with the virus”, says Dr. Jalil.

He is on his way to recovery, but plans to return to work as soon as he feels better. “This is a privilege for me to serve my people during this difficult time. I will continue to work hard until the last patient is COVID-19 free.”

Dr. Jalil’s motivation comes from donors, such as USAID, who are supporting his country in all sectors of development. “Let me appreciate the U.S. Government, through USAID. We need the support of the U.S. at this difficult time.”

Like Dr. Jalil, health workers around the world are on the frontlines of this pandemic. They face a multitude of challenges, including staying safe and healthy.

Last updated: October 22, 2020

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