Afghanistan’s health system on verge of collapse, WHO warns

Afghanistan’s health system on verge of collapse, WHO warns

The World Health Organization warned Wednesday that Afghanistan’s health care system is on the verge of collapse and the nation faces a humanitarian catastrophe without urgent action by the international community.

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

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

In the statement, WHO said cuts in international donor support to the Sehatmandi project, the country’s largest health care project, have left thousands of health facilities without funding for medical supplies and salaries for health staff.

Tedros said only 17% of all Sehatmandi health facilities are now fully functional. He said many of the facilities have now reduced operations or shut down, “forcing health providers to make decisions on who to save and who to let die.”

“This breakdown in health services is having a rippling effect on the availability of basic and essential health care, as well as on emergency response, polio eradication, and COVID-19 vaccination efforts,” he said.

In response, Martin Griffiths, United Nations undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs, announced he was releasing $45 million from the U.N.’s Central Emergency Response Fund to help protect Afghanistan’s health care system from collapse.

In a statement, Griffiths said the funding will go to WHO and the U.N. Children’s Fund, UNICEF, and working through national and international nongovernmental organizations, the funding will hopefully be used to keep health care facilities operating until the end of the year.