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Afghanistan’s Health System Is on the ‘Brink of Collapse,’ W.H.O. Says


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Afghanistan’s Health System Is on the ‘Brink of Collapse,’ W.H.O. Says

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O. director general, warned of an “imminent humanitarian catastrophe” as the country’s health care system struggles with a loss of foreign funding and dwindling supplies.

Over the past 20 years, significant health gains have been made in Afghanistan in reducing maternal and child mortality, moving towards polio eradication, and more. Those gains are now at severe risk with the country’s health system on the brink of collapse. There has been a surge in cases of measles and diarrhea. Almost 50 percent of children are at high — at risk of malnutrition. The resurgence of polio is a major risk, and 2.1 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine remain unused. Unless urgent action is taken, Afghanistan faces an imminent humanitarian catastrophe. Health workers are leaving, creating a brain drain that will have consequences for years to come. We visited a hospital where we met some nurses who have stayed. My heart broke when they told me they have not been paid in three months. The focus of our efforts now is to support and sustain the Sehatmandi Project, which is the backbone of Afghanistan’s health system, providing care for millions of people through 2,300 health facilities, including in remote areas. But a funding pause by major donors — only 17 percent of these facilities are fully functional. And two-thirds have stockouts of essential medicines.

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