Afghanistan’s Healthcare System Nearly Collapses

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned Wednesday that Afghanistan’s health care system is on the verge of collapse and the country is facing a humanitarian catastrophe without urgent action from the international community.

Earlier this week, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and WHO regional director for the eastern Mediterranean, Ahmed Al-Mandhari, visited Wazir Mohammad Akbar Khan National Hospital, whose health workers are treating many people injured in the recent airport attack in the capital, Kabul.

In a press release on Wednesday, Tedros said the visit allowed WHO to see firsthand the urgent needs of the Afghan people and meet with stakeholders to determine how WHO could help the country.

In a statement, WHO said cuts in international donor assistance for the Sehatmandi project, the country’s largest healthcare project, had left thousands of health facilities without funds for medical supplies and health staff salaries.

Tedros said only 17% of all Sehatmandi’s health facilities are now fully functional. He said many facilities have now reduced operations or closed, “forcing health care providers to make decisions about who to save and who to let die.”

“These obstacles in health services have an impact on the flow of availability of basic and essential health services, as well as emergency response efforts, eradication of polio, and COVID-19 vaccination efforts,” he said.

Donations for 1.4 million doses of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine arrived at Hamid Karzai airport, Afghanistan (photo: doc).

Donations for 1.4 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine arrived at Hamid Karzai airport, Afghanistan (photo: doc).

In response, Martin Griffiths, the UN under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, announced that he is releasing $45 million from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund to help protect Afghanistan’s healthcare system from collapse.

In a statement, Griffiths said the funds would go to WHO and the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, and in collaboration with national and international non-governmental organizations, the funds are expected to be used to keep health care facilities operational through the end of the year. [my/ka]

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