Photo: IRC Afghanistan

WHO Reports Rise in Measles Cases in Afghanistan

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported an increase in suspected measles cases in Afghanistan over the last two weeks compared to the figures reported last year.

In a report released on Thursday, May 9th, the WHO stated that over the past two weeks, Afghanistan has recorded a total of 1,530 suspected cases of measles along with two related fatalities.

“The 2 deaths were reported from 2 provinces: Kabul (1) and Kandahar (1); both deaths were among under-five children, while one of them was female,” WHO said.

According to the WHO report, since the beginning of 2024, Afghanistan has reported a total of 21,843 suspected measles cases and 100 deaths. Among the suspected measles cases, over 80% were children under 5 years old, and more than 45% were females.

The report indicates that Balkh province has the highest cumulative incidence of suspected measles per 10,000 populations (16.7%), followed by Samangan (15.5%), Khost (13.9%), and Farah (11.3%) provinces.

Last month, the UN agency reported a slight decrease in measles cases attributed to the end of winter and its antigen acceleration campaign. WHO stated that the campaign targeted 53 districts across 13 provinces in the country.

In the midst of a humanitarian and governance crisis in Afghanistan, the longstanding health crisis is worsening due to funding shortages, a shortage of skilled health professionals, and restrictions imposed by the Taliban on women’s education and work.

Over the nearly three years since the Taliban returned to power, WHO and other humanitarian organizations have repeatedly warned about the devastating health system crisis in Afghanistan.

The crisis, the UN agency said, poses a serious threat to the people of Afghanistan, leaving millions in the country at risk of not receiving essential healthcare assistance and heightening the risk of infectious diseases and outbreaks.

According to the UN, more than 18 million people in Afghanistan rely on humanitarian health assistance. The organization has requested $367 million in funding to provide healthcare services for the 12.8 million individuals in the country in 2024.

Furthermore, the collapse of Afghanistan’s economy, along with poverty and food insecurity, continues to impact the health status of Afghan people, with estimates showing that over 23 million individuals are in dire need of food assistance.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) highlighted in a report released in February that the collapse of Afghanistan’s economy and the loss of hundreds of jobs after the Taliban takeover have left many people unable to cover their medical costs. The situation, as highlighted by HRW, is worsening their social determinants of health, and threatening rights essential for maintaining an adequate standard of living, including the right to food and healthcare.