Public health specialist Gunel Isakova also worries that rural communities like Toganali could be at high risk if the virus spreads outside of urban centers. She notes that people in villages are more likely to leave their homes, to work in the fields or to visit neighbors, meaning the coronavirus could spread quickly.
While local medical professionals like Jeyran try to educate their communities about the dangers of the virus, Isakova argues the government should do more to inform remote villages about the coronavirus and the importance of preventive measures.
“In cities, health workers go to people’s homes and take their temperatures. But this is not happening in remote villages. Therefore, the risk of infection is higher. It was necessary to go to the villages with large, educational posters and set them up in popular public places,” she says.
Azerbaijani economist Azer Mehdiyev agrees rural communities are at risk. “Villagers often go to each other's houses, and as soon as one of them is ill, everyone is obliged to visit him. It is impossible to implement quarantine rules. Therefore, there is a bigger risk for people in the village to become infected and spread the disease. It is unclear when such a disease will appear. Unfortunately, educational activities have not been carried out to inform people [about these dangers]--either in villages or in cities,” Mehdiyev says.
He notes that if the state provided people with food during the quarantine, it would help ensure rural communities could stay indoors and observe social distancing.
”The villagers are people of the land and want to plant and cultivate. Even now, they will work in the fields to earn money, rather than following quarantine rules. The government should provide them with food. Only under these conditions will the government encourage them to follow the quarantine rules,” Azer Meydiyev says.
But locals say little help has come from the central government. Saida, who depended on dishwashing jobs at large weddings to supplement the social assistance her husband receives, says she has applied for financial help but has not received anything yet.
The deputy head of the local municipality, Ali Mammadov, says the local government is aware of the problems facing residents in Toganali, but has few resources to help them.
”We know all these difficulties and try to help people as much as we can. There are a lot of problems with the local infrastructure,” he says, noting that the municipality has started to provide food assistance from its own limited coffers since no aid has come from the central government.