WILDERNESS NEWS - Kathy Whitehead, a South African-born journalist from Wilderness, has been stranded in Kabul, Afghanistan, since March. More than once in the over 70 days her hopes were up to catch a flight out of the war-torn country, but each time she has had to face awful disappointment.
On Tuesday 2 June she told George Herald / Group Editors that she wants to get home to Wilderness and as each day passes, the stress continues to mount.
"As a journalist and an editor, with over 30 years of experience, I have had to deal with a lot through the years. I have seen the good side of life and the bad - but the emotional roller-coaster of this current situation is not something I could ever have prepared myself for," she said.
"Each day brings a different set of dynamics, new hope, new highs, only to have them dashed in minutes. The closest I came to getting out was a flight on 23 May, but that came to nothing and instead, I spend hours looking for a flight out of Kabul to a point where I can connect with a repatriation flight home."
Every day is like being on a hamster wheel. "I check messages, I speak to embassy officials, I try to get information from airlines and I communicate on WhatsApp chat groups with other South Africans who are in the same situation, just in different countries. So far Dirco has done an amazing job - by repatriating over 7 000 South Africans since lockdown started in March, but for those of us still stranded, things only get more difficult.
"Without work, there is no income, and certainly for me I am now relying on the kindness of camp management to provide me with safe, secure accommodation and food. I live in a heavily fortified compound that houses foreigners and being in Kabul I really have no other choice.
"Living in an ordinary residential area is not an option from a security point of view and asking Afghan friends for help would only put them and their families at risk."
As a foreigner, secure living is a priority and now with the virus spreading through the country unchecked, the urgency of getting home just becomes all that more urgent.
She said these past few months have been extremely taxing and the stress of dealing with the situation has become unimaginable. "But the one thing I know is I have to keep looking for a way out."
Overland to Pakistan is impossible because not only is the border closed, but the possibility of being kidnapped, blown up or shot at, is too high to run the risk. Being stranded in Kabul plays havoc with one's emotions as not only is the war and precarious political situation a serious cause for concern, but Covid-19 has spread through the country unchecked and over 50% of the capital’s population is believed to be infected.
Being Afghanistan, the healthcare system has always been fragile but the general feeling among the people now is that it has all but collapsed.
Over the weekend, Afghanistan's Deputy Health Minister said that the Ministry was running out of medical facilities to treat Covid-19 patients and that "there is a dire need for face masks, ventilators and other necessary equipment."
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