The health system is on the brink of collapse in Afghanistan, where at least 2,000 health facilities have already closed due to cash shortages facing the country, a senior Red Cross official warned on Thursday.
“People will agree to work without pay for a few more weeks,” Alexander Matheou, director for Asia and the Pacific of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), warned at a press conference in Kabul. .
“But when there are no more drugs, no more electricity and nothing else to offer patients, they will shut down,” he added.
Afflicted by decades of war, the Afghan economy has been partially paralyzed since the Taliban took power in mid-August, due to the freeze on international aid and Afghan assets abroad that kept it under control.
Without international funding, many NGOs, on which the health system relied heavily until then, are running out of money or have had to cease operations.
“This is what paralyzes the health system,” Matheou told AFP after a four-day visit to Afghanistan. “The challenge is to find alternative means of financing.”
“More than 2,000 health structures have closed” and some 23,000 health workers, including 7,000 women, no longer receive a salary or have had to stop working, he said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) warned last week that less than a fifth of health centers in Afghanistan were still fully functional and two-thirds lack basic medicines.
Matheou was concerned about the consequences of a system collapse, particularly in the fight against Covid-19. In a country where only 1% of the population has been vaccinated, more than a million doses of vaccine are still pending distribution and “will expire before the end of the year,” he warned.
Doctors and nurses in a corridor of the Wazir Akbar Khan hospital on September 1, 2021 in Kabul, Afghanistan (AFP – Aamir QURESHI)
The Afghan Red Crescent has worked in the country for decades, including in areas that were controlled by the Taliban in recent years, before they returned to power.
It operates 140 health centers, which have already received close to a million patients this year and have continued to operate when many others closed.
The international community has promised, according to the UN, to pay 1,200 million dollars (about a billion euros) in aid to humanitarian organizations in the country, without specifying, however, the amount that would be allocated to emergency aid.