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Healthcare system in Afghanistan on edge of collapse

ANI | Updated: Sep 13, 2021 23:05 IST

Kabul [Afghanistan], September 13 (ANI): After the Taliban's takeover, the health care system in Afghanistan is crumbling as international donors have withdrawn funds.
Apoorva Mandavilli, writing in The New York Times said that post-Taliban's takeover, international donors withdrew funds that hospitals and clinics depended on. Now, the fourth wave of COVID looms.
The country's health care has been propped up by aid from international donors. But after the Taliban seized power, the World Bank and other organizations froze USD 600 million in health care aid, endangering the lives of millions and compounding a deepening humanitarian crisis, public health experts warn.
The Biden administration, too, is struggling with how to dispense donor money to a country now being run by several senior Taliban leaders whom the United States has designated to be terrorists, said Mandavilli.
If World Bank funding is not restored quickly, an exodus of health care workers may result. The cut-off would effectively end health care services in 31 of the nation's 34 provinces, humanitarian groups said.
Afghanistan is already on the brink of universal poverty, according to a United Nations report, and only its richest citizens will be able to afford health care.
Assuming that health care coverage is cut by half because of the funding loss, deaths among women and children will increase by at least 33 per cent over the next year -- nearly 2,000 women and more than 26,000 children per year -- according to one analysis, reported The New York Times.

"There have been massive improvements in many metrics of health, like maternal mortality, tuberculosis and malaria," said Peter Sands, executive director of the Global Fund, an advocacy group that funds campaigns against HIV, malaria and tuberculosis.
Moreover, Afghanistan emerged from a third wave of virus infections just a few weeks ago, but it is already seeing a small uptick in cases, this time of the highly contagious Delta variant. Only 5 per cent of the population have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, said Mandavilli.
"It's terrible timing that this would happen when right now we're faced with a situation where humanitarian needs are escalating," said Dr Richard Brennan, the regional emergency director for the World Health Organization's Eastern Mediterranean region.
Further, roughly two-thirds of the country's health facilities are part of Sehatmandi, a three-year, USD 600 million project administered by the World Bank and funded by the US Agency for International Development, the European Union, the World Bank and others, reported The New York Times.
Because funds were put in effect through the Afghanistan Ministry of Public Health, the donors withdrew their support after the Taliban's ouster of the previous administration, said Mandavilli.
The shuttering of Sehatmandi clinics in Afghanistan is likely to overwhelm those funded by other means, aid workers said.
When no commercial flights were allowed into the country, medical supplies at many hospitals dwindled. Insurance costs for flights have skyrocketed, and funds don't go as far. Trauma and emergency health kits, and testing kits for the coronavirus, are in particularly short supply.
The Sehatmandi program contracts out the delivery of health services to more than 30 nongovernmental organizations. On August 31, a week after the funding pause, an alliance of some of the NGOs warned that absent of immediate solutions, the organizations could not continue their work after September 5, reported The New York Times. (ANI)