Photo: Hasht-E Subh

WHO: Measles Outbreak in Afghanistan Kills 94 Since January

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that, since the beginning of 2024, 18,744 cases of measles have been recorded in Afghanistan, along with 94 associated deaths.

In its report released on Thursday, April 25, the WHO said that of the suspected measles cases, 15,096 (80.5%) were children under five years old, and 8,462 (45.1%) were females.

According to the report, Balkh province has the highest cumulative incidence of suspected measles per 10,000 population (14.6%), followed by Samangan (14.3%), Khost (11.3%), and Farah (10.3%) provinces.

The UN health agency says that the epidemiological curve of suspected measles cases shows a gradual decline over the past four weeks, likely due to the conclusion of winter and its antigen acceleration campaign. This campaign targeted 53 districts across 13 provinces in the country.

During the US-backed republic government, Afghanistan made considerable progress in the health sector, including expanding access to health services and improving some health indicators.

Following the Taliban’s takeover in August 2021, the country’s health system has collapsed, resulting in a shortage of medicine, equipment, and healthcare professionals in many hospitals.

Since then, the WHO has repeatedly warned about a devastating health system crisis in Afghanistan. This crisis, the organization says poses a serious threat, leaving millions of people in the country at risk of not receiving essential healthcare assistance and heightening the risk of infectious diseases and outbreaks.

Earlier, the organization said that access to quality healthcare remains a pressing issue in Afghanistan, where over 18 million people rely on humanitarian health assistance.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has appealed for $367 million in funding to deliver healthcare services to the 12.8 million people in Afghanistan in 2024

While donor support for Afghanistan was shrinking even before the Taliban takeover, the regime’s disregard of widespread international pressure to reverse their repressive policies and end their violations of women and girls’ rights have deterred many countries from funding development programs including those in the health sector.

Additionally, the collapse of Afghanistan economy, poverty and food insecurity continue to affect the health status of Afghan people, with estimates of over 23 million people in dire need of food assistance.

In a report last February, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) underscored that the collapse of Afghanistan’s economy and the loss of hundreds of jobs after the Taliban takeover have rendered many people incapable of covering their medical costs. This has worsened their social determinants of health and threatened rights crucial for maintaining an adequate standard of living, such as the rights to food and healthcare.