Refugee nurse on the front lines in Tajikistan’s battle against COVID

In 2006 Diyono and her family fled Afghanistan when she was still a teenager. Her family of six was granted refuge in Tajikistan and lives in the north of the country in Sughd Province.

After finishing high school in Khujand, Diyono enrolled in medical college and in 2013 graduated as a qualified nurse. For the past 7 years, she has been working in the intensive care unit of the regional Infectious Disease Hospital in Khujand.

When cases of COVID-19 begin appearing in Sughd, Diyono immediately found herself on the front lines of the outbreak.

“Our hospital was the first to receive COVID infected patients. We all knew that it was very dangerous and difficult to fight this new virus. I have already been on the front line in the red zone (special quarantine zone where medical staff live and work) four times. These were for periods of 21 days, 18 days, 16 days, and 14 days respectively. During this pandemic, knowing that I could catch the virus at any time, I would pray to Allah. Every time before I entered the red zone, I would mentally say goodbye to my family”, explains Diyono.

Diyono has huge responsibility to sustain her family as Only she and her sister are employed and are the breadwinners of the family. Their father left the family and returned to Afghanistan, while her mother is too sick to work.

Diyono, who is only 27 years old, has been witnessing deaths of OVID patients over recent months.  But she has worked without losing courage and hope, doing what she could to help and comfort patients during the days and nights of the epidemic.

“I put myself in their shoes. When I see them revive again, I rejoiced with them. And I consider it my duty to all the patients I work with to raise their spirits”, she explains.

In addition to her duties, Diyono supports Sughd’s refugee and host community. Many refugees and locals reach her out for advice, to receive injections, and to set up drip feeders at home. Importantly she redirects them to the best professionals at Khujand’s hospitals.

Despite being a refugee, Diyono’s colleagues accept her as one of their own. They are sympathetic to the difficult situation refugees face and know that she and her sister are taking care of the family.

Sadly, a number of doctors and nurses who work with Diyono have become infected, and tragically some have passed away. Even those who were extremely ill with the virus gave her and other colleagues advice and instructions for continuing patient treatment from their own hospital beds.

According to Diyono, esprit de corps became stronger among medical workers during this time, as medical workers in the red zone continue to be isolated from loved ones for weeks at a time. Given the real risk of infection, many were wondering during these long periods in the quarantine zone if they would ever see their families again.

Diyono believes it has been worth it.

“I am very proud that together we saved the lives of many people”, beams Diyono.