Hundreds of Afghan Mothers and Infants Die Daily in Afghanistan, WHO Reports

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that an estimated 24 mothers and 167 infants die from preventable causes each day in Afghanistan.

In a recent report titled “Overview of the Health Situation in Afghanistan,” released on Sunday, June 9, WHO highlighted that Afghan women and children, who are marginalized in society, bear the most severe repercussions of the country’s health crisis.

“Women and children are 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,” WHO said.

The report quoted Dr. Hanan Balkhy, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, saying, “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.”

Over the past three years, the UN and international organizations have invested millions of dollars in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan to support the healthcare system. However, despite these efforts, the country’s healthcare system continues to deteriorate.

According to a WHO report, 17.9 million people in Afghanistan need health assistance this year, and 9.5 million have limited or no access to basic health services.

“For every 10,000 people in Afghanistan, there are just 10 health workers. This is much lower than the required ratio of 44 health workers for every 10,000 people needed for universal health coverage,” WHO said.

The Taliban’s restrictions on women’s access to education and healthcare services exacerbate challenges for women and children. Across Afghanistan, women and girls are barred from seeking medical assistance at health centers without a male guardian accompanying them.

Furthermore, the substantial reduction in financial and technical development assistance for Afghanistan’s public health system since the Taliban takeover in August 2021 has severely damaged the country’s healthcare infrastructure.

According to the WHO report, a total of 428 static and mobile health facilities were compelled to shut down last year due to severe underfunding.

“These closures have had a detrimental impact on access to health care for over 3 million individuals, including more than 600 000 children aged under 5 years and over 240 000 pregnant and lactating women.”

“A deficit in funding 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,” said Dr. Jamshed Ali Tanoli, WHO Representative to Afghanistan.

The UN health agency has called for an additional $342 million to supplement the overall budget of $423 million to continue implementing its “ambitious plan” for the 2024-2025 biennium.

“US$ 115 million to reach the unreached and place women’s and children’s health first; US$ 231 million to protect people every day, and US$ 6.1 million to coordinate the health sector for maximum impact,” WHO said.