WHO flag. Photo: U.S. Mission Photo/Eric Bridiers

WHO Appeals for Increased Funding for Afghanistan in 2024 and 2025

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN – The World Health Organization (WHO) has appealed to international donors for an additional $352 million in funding to sustain its healthcare services plan in Afghanistan for the years 2024 and 2025.

In a report titled ‘Overview of the Health Situation in Afghanistan,’ released on Thursday, February 22, the WHO in Afghanistan said that it needs additional funding to deliver services across three strategic areas: $115 million to reach unreached women and children, $231 million for daily protection of individuals, and $6.1 million for coordinating the health sector to maximize impact.

The UN agency says that Afghanistan continues to grapple with an enduring humanitarian crisis characterized by a multitude of challenges, with Afghan citizens enduring an unstable health system and confronting the daily specter of food scarcity and malnutrition.

The report indicates a significant surge in the need for humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, rising from 18.4 million people in need before August 2021 to an estimated 23.7 million people expected to be in dire need in 2024. “A substantial segment of this population – some 9.5 million people residing in more than 20 000 villages – still has limited or no access to the most basic health services,” WHO said.

In the past, the WHO has repeatedly warned of a crippling healthcare crisis in Afghanistan due to a funding shortfall, which, according to the organization, posed a serious threat to millions of people in the country, potentially preventing them from receiving necessary healthcare assistance and increasing the likelihood of infectious diseases and outbreaks.

A recent report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) shows  that the reduction in humanitarian aid by donor countries and organizations has weakened healthcare access, destabilized the economy, and worsened food insecurity in Afghanistan.

According to the HRW report, the crisis has been significantly worsened by the Taliban’s abusive policies and practices which have obstructed the training of future female healthcare workers. 

According to the WHO’s new report, the most severe repercussions of this protracted health emergency are borne by Afghan women and children, who find themselves on the margins of society, increasingly vulnerable to adverse health outcomes, particularly concerning reproductive, maternal, newborn, and child health.

“Tragically, preventable maternal mortality claims the lives of 24 mothers every day, and a staggering 167 infants die each day of preventable causes,” part of the report reads.

The report also highlighted that ongoing geopolitical considerations have overshadowed the protracted humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, leading to reduced support from international partners.

“Due to severe underfunding, a total of 428 static and mobile health facilities were compelled to shut down between January and December 2023,” stated the UN agency, highlighting that these closures have adversely affected access to healthcare for over 3 million individuals, including more than 600,000 children under 5 years old and over 240,000 pregnant and lactating women.

WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, Dr. Hanan Balkhy, was quoted in the report saying that the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan demands urgent action to address escalating health needs, particularly those of women and children, who are disproportionately affected by the crisis.