Afghanistan’s well being system is on the snapping point: WHO


In this photo taken on March 20, 2019, an Afghan health worker gives a child a polio vaccine in Kandahar province.

Javed Tanveer | AFP | Getty Images

Afghanistan’s health system is “on the verge of collapse” as thousands of health facilities struggle to buy medical supplies and pay for their staff due to a lack of funding, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.

“If urgent action is not taken, the country faces an imminent humanitarian disaster,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, Ahmed Al-Mandhari, in a statement following a visit to Kabul. the Afghan capital.

The Taliban, an ultra-conservative militant group, took power in Afghanistan last month when the US withdrew its military presence in the country. Afghanistan is heavily dependent on international funding, but many donors suspended aid to the country while the US froze its Afghan funds.

WHO said the reduced donations to Afghanistan’s largest health project, Sehatmandi, left health facilities without drugs, medical supplies, fuel and salaries for medical staff.

Sehatmandi is the country’s main source of health care – it operates 2,309 medical facilities across Afghanistan, benefiting more than 30 million people in 2020.

“Many of these facilities have now scaled down or closed, forcing healthcare providers to make tough decisions about who to save and who to let die,” the statement said, noting that only 17% of facilities are fully operational was.

Covid-19 response

Problems in Afghanistan’s health system have influenced the country’s response to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

“Nine out of 37 COVID-19 hospitals have already closed and all aspects of the COVID-19 response have been shut down, including monitoring, testing and vaccinations,” the WHO said.

The Covid vaccination rates have “dropped quickly” in the last few weeks, while 1.8 million vaccine doses remained unused, the statement said.

Members of the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) mark the shipment of Astrazeneca Covid-19 coronavirus vaccines donated by the French government after their arrival at Kabul Airport in Kabul on August 8, 2021.

Deputy Kohsar | AFP | Getty Images

“Rapid action is needed to use these doses in the coming weeks and work towards the goal of vaccinating at least 20% of the population by the end of the year based on national targets,” WHO said.

Only about 1.1% of the Afghan population is fully vaccinated, according to the latest data from the online repository Our World in Data.

Other emergencies

In addition to Covid, Afghanistan is facing other health emergencies, the WHO said.

The country is one of only two countries in the world where polio is still prevalent, the agency said. The number of wild poliovirus cases has fallen from 56 in 2020 to just one this year, but efforts to eradicate the disease will suffer from problems in the Afghan health system, the WHO said.

Meanwhile, measles outbreaks were spreading in Afghanistan, the agency added.

The United Nations announced on Wednesday that it was releasing $ 45 million from the Central Emergency Fund to “help prevent the collapse of the Afghan health system.”

“Allowing the health system in Afghanistan to collapse would be catastrophic. People across the country would be denied access to basic health care such as emergency caesarean sections and trauma care,” said Martin Griffiths, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

Effects on women

Problems in Afghanistan’s health system pose a particular risk to women in the country.

With fewer health facilities operating and fewer health professionals going to work, female patients are reluctant to see a doctor, the WHO said.

While women in public health have been urged to return to their jobs, many understandably fear dealing with Taliban fighters, especially now that there is no system of government to protect them.

Samira Hamidi

Humanitarian activist, Amnesty International

Samira Hamidi, Amnesty International’s South Asia activist, said women in the country feel insecure because they don’t trust the Taliban.

“While women in the public health sector have been urged to return to work, many understandably fear dealing with Taliban fighters, especially now that there is no system of government to protect them,” she told CNBC.