Photo: The U.S. National Archives

WHO appeals for increased funding for Afghanistan’s crippling healthcare

The World Health Organization (WHO) has appealed to international donors for increased funding to provide healthcare to some 14 million people in Afghanistan, particularly in remote areas. 

In a new alert report on Friday, WHO warns of a crippling health system in the country with millions of lives threatened by food insecurity and malnutrition and further exacerbated by infectious diseases, ongoing outbreaks, and severe drought.

According to the report, the number of people in need of humanitarian aid has surged to 28.8 million in 2023, compared to 18.4 million before the Taliban takeover in August 2021.

In the health sector, it means that 14 million people (including 7.5 million children and 3.1 million women) are currently targeted for health assistance, according to the report, stating that only 8.4 million people have been reached in the first six months of 2023.

WHO’s funding for the 2022-2023 biennium is US$480 million, of which US$355 has either been implemented or is available. This leaves an additional US$125 million in funding gap to sustain basic health needs for the remainder of 2023.

The organization continues to lead Afghanistan’s health and humanitarian cluster coordination across 34 provinces, stressing that its essential health services would be hindered if the underfunding continues.

“Afghanistan’s healthcare system is facing a significant funding deficiency, and if left unsupported, will have a devastating impact on the health of Afghans, especially women and children.” The report warns.

“Such a deficit will create huge hurdles in the access of healthcare, to those that need it most, which will in turn lead to increased vulnerability, particularly in underserved areas. Failing to address these challenges now will result in dire consequences for the Afghan population.”

The funding shortfall means that eight million people will lose access to essential life-saving health assistance, including 875,000 children who are suffering from severe malnutrition and 300,000 women of reproductive age.

Additionally, WHO alerts that 520 health facilities and hospitals will remain with little or no support, further curtailing access of millions of people from mental health support and children unable to receive polio vaccinations countrywide.