Afghanistan’s health-care system is ‘on the brink of collapse,’ WHO warns

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

Javed Tanveer | AFP | Getty Images

Afghanistan’s health-care system is “on the brink of collapse” as a lack of funding left thousands of health facilities struggling to buy medical supplies and pay their staff, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.

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“Unless urgent action is taken, the country faces an imminent humanitarian catastrophe,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Ahmed Al-Mandhari said in a statement following a visit to Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city.

The Taliban, an ultraconservative militant group, seized power in Afghanistan last month as the U.S. withdrew its military presence in the country. Afghanistan is heavily dependent on international funding, but many donors have suspended aid to the country while the U.S. froze its Afghan financial assets.

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

Sehatmandi is the main source of health care in the country — it operates 2,309 medical facilities across Afghanistan that benefitted over 30 million people in 2020.

“Many of these facilities have now reduced operations or shut down, forcing health providers to make hard decisions on who to save and who to let die,” the statement said, noting that only 17% of the facilities were fully functional.

Covid-19 response

Other emergencies

The United Nations said Wednesday it’s releasing $45 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund to “help prevent Afghanistan’s health-care system from collapse.”

“Allowing Afghanistan’s health-care delivery system to fall apart would be disastrous. People across the country would be denied access to primary health care such as emergency caesarian sections and trauma care,” said Martin Griffiths, UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator.

Impact on women



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