(Reuters) – The World Health Organisation’s representative to Afghanistan called on the international community on Thursday to resume funding of the war-torn country’s health program which was suspended when the Taliban took over governing the country, as the healthcare system had plunged into crisis.
The deteriorating situation underscored the dilemma faced by many international donors, many of which are reticent to fund the Taliban-led administration, some of whose members are on international sanctions lists, but fear that the country is veering towards a humanitarian crisis.
“In the recent weeks, access to health care has significantly declined for hundreds of thousands of some of the most vulnerable Afghans,” Luo Dapeng, WHO’s representative to Afghanistan, said at a press conference in Geneva.
“The country’s already-fragile health system is overwhelmed,” he said, adding they were coordinating with donors to find alternative funding mechanisms for health facilities.
International governments have pledged millions in urgent humanitarian aid but questions remain over longer term development and other funding to an economy highly dependent on international assistance. Billions of dollars in central bank assets held outside the country have also been frozen.
A roughly $600 million three-year health project administered by the World Bank in Afghanistan has funded the operation of hundreds of health facilities, and WHO estimated less than a fifth were now fully functional. That has contributed to a surge in cases of measles and diarrhoea, with half of Afghan children at risk of malnutrition and millions of COVID-19 vaccines sitting unused, Dapeng said.
(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield in Islamabad; Editing by Bernadette Baum)