A new alert from the World Health Organization (WHO) underscores the crucial importance of increased investment in the provision of healthcare in Afghanistan, particularly in underserved areas where infrastructure is severely under-resourced and remains vulnerable due to the current situation.
After decades of instability, exacerbated by severe drought and natural disasters, Afghanistan is currently facing a protracted humanitarian crisis. Millions of people live with inadequate or non-existent access to health and food, putting them at high risk of malnutrition and epidemics. The vulnerability of women and girls has increased still further, as they face greater obstacles to accessing healthcare due to the ban on education and participation in the workforce.
Vulnerable people on the rise
Afghanistan's revised humanitarian response plan for 2023 reveals an alarming increase in the number of people in urgent need of humanitarian aid. According to the document, 28.8 million people are in need of immediate assistance, compared with 18.4 million before August 2021. To respond to the health emergency, 14 million people, including 7.5 million children and 3.1 million women, are currently being targeted. In the first six months of the year, 8.4 million have already been reached. The healthcare response has been very positive, with a total of 25.7 million health services provided between 2022 and 2023.
Limited or no access
However, despite these efforts and in the absence of sufficient funding, 8 million Afghans will no longer have access to essential and potentially life-saving health care. In addition, 450,000 patients will have limited or no access to vital trauma care services, including blood transfusions and specialized services. In addition, an estimated 1.6 million people suffering from mental disorders will have limited or no access to mental health consultations and psychosocial support.
In the second half of 2023, WHO will continue to work with its partners to respond to critical health emergencies by providing life-saving health interventions, while building on the successes achieved in 2022.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the UN agency, said: "The situation in Afghanistan is grave, and the lack of resources and funding to support health personnel and facilities is putting countless lives at risk. Women and children are suffering the most. I call on donors to be generous so that we can continue to save lives".
WHO needs $125 million to continue meeting basic health needs until the end of 2023.