Today, Wednesday, the World Health Organization warned that the health system in Afghanistan is on the verge of collapse, and called for urgent measures to prevent this from happening.
The warning came as Martin Griffiths, the chief humanitarian officer at the United Nations, announced the disbursement of $45 million from an emergency fund to support Afghanistan’s crumbling health care system.
Allowing the health care system to collapse in Afghanistan would be disastrous, said Mr. Griffiths, noting that it would deny people across the country access to primary health care such as emergency cesarean sections and trauma care.
WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari issued a joint statement following a visit to Afghanistan saying that cuts in international funding had forced health providers to choose between “who to save and whom to let die.” “.
After meeting with prominent Taliban figures, doctors, and patients, the two officials explained that the lack of financial support for the country’s largest health project has left thousands of facilities unable to purchase medical supplies and pay salaries.
They explained that less than one in five facilities in the country remained operational, although access to these facilities remained open to all communities.
Amid reports of the cold chain being compromised, the two officials said, “This collapse in health services has a ripple effect on the availability of basic health care, as well as on emergency response, polio eradication, and coronavirus vaccination efforts.”
Corona virus dangers
WHO officials also noted that nine out of 37 hospitals designated to treat Covid-19 cases have already closed, and that “all aspects of the country’s response to this pandemic, such as monitoring testing and vaccination, have stopped.”
Amidst concerns about women’s rights in the country, following the appointment of an all-male interim government, the UN officials’ statement stressed that women need access to education, healthcare, and a healthy workforce. The statement added:
“With fewer functioning health facilities and fewer female health workers in action, patients are reluctant to seek care. We are committed to working with partners to invest in health education for girls and women, as well as continue training for female health workers.”
Among its operations in Afghanistan, the World Health Organization supports an extensive trauma treatment program that includes training and the provision of supplies and equipment to 130 hospitals and 67 blood banks.
WFP Afghanistan provides cash assistance to vulnerable families © WFP/Massoud Hossaini
WFP in Afghanistan provides cash assistance to vulnerable families
WHO data indicated that before the Taliban seized power on August 15, 2.2 million people were vaccinated against the coronavirus in Afghanistan. Dr. Tedros and Dr. Al-Mandhari said:
“In recent weeks, vaccination rates have fallen rapidly while the country’s 1.8 million vaccine doses are still unused. There is a need to take swift action to use these doses in the coming weeks and work toward achieving the goal of vaccinating at least 20 percent of the population by the end of the year.”
The two UN officials also urged renewed work on polio eradication in Afghanistan – one of two countries where the disease is still endemic. And they added:
“With only one case of wild poliovirus reported this year, compared to 56 in 2020, this is the best time to eradicate polio. However, the polio program will be challenged if the immunization infrastructure begins in collapse.”
The two WHO officials warned that measles was also spreading, but said that it was now possible to reach all communities. This means that WHO and its partners can start a nationwide polio vaccination campaign, which also includes vaccination against COVID-19 and measles, they said.