Afghanistan: As needs in Afghanistan worsen, aid organizations call for help

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Afghanistan’s healthcare system is on the brink of collapse, international aid groups warned this week, threatening to escalate the country’s humanitarian crisis as temperatures begin to drop.

Thousands of health facilities are running out of essential drugs. Afghan doctors have not been paid for two months, with no paychecks in sight. And in recent weeks, there has been a spate of measles and diarrhea cases, according to the World Health Organization.

For two decades, aid from the World Bank and other international donors supported the country’s health system, but after the Taliban took power, they froze $ 600 million in health aid.

Now, a little over a month after the Taliban reign, the toll is becoming clear.

“We are deeply concerned that Afghanistan faces an imminent collapse of health services and worsening hunger if aid and money do not flow into the country within weeks.” said Alexander Matheou, Asia-Pacific director of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. a press conference on Thursday. “The harsh winter that is coming in Afghanistan threatens greater hardship and hardship.

The ongoing healthcare crisis has underscored how quickly basic services have collapsed as international donors struggle to find ways to distribute much-needed aid under Taliban rule.

Foreign aid once accounted for nearly 75% of the country’s public spending, according to the World Bank, but after activists took control on August 15, the United States froze more than $ 9 billion in U.S. accounts. the Afghan Central Bank, and major international donors like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund have suspended disbursements.

They fear the Taliban will reimpose the brutal crackdown from their first reign, 1996-2001. Aid groups and foreign governments have spoken of finding a way to get money and supplies into Afghanistan without placing them. in the hands of the Taliban, but until then the Afghans pay a heavy price.

“There must be a solution to the financial flows to Afghanistan to ensure that at least wages can be paid and that essential supplies – electricity and water being two of them – can be purchased,” Matheou said Thursday.

Last week, the United States paved the way for aid to flow to Afghanistan, issuing two blanket licenses allowing the United States government and certain international organizations like the United Nations to engage with the Taliban to provide humanitarian aid.

This should facilitate the flow of agricultural products, medicines and other essential resources while maintaining economic sanctions against the Taliban.

“The Treasury is committed to facilitating the flow of humanitarian aid to the Afghan people and other activities that meet their basic human needs,” said Andrea Gacki, director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the US Treasury, in a statement.

But as winter approaches, aid organizations have started making urgent appeals to international donors.

“Over the past 20 years, significant health gains have been made in Afghanistan to reduce maternal and child mortality, end polio and more. Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, said last week. “These gains are now in serious jeopardy.”

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is seeking $ 38 million to fund health care and other emergency services across Afghanistan. And on Wednesday, UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric called on donors to help the organization reach its goal of $ 606 million to fund humanitarian programs until the end of the year. So far, this call is only 22% funded.

Yet the international community remains deeply divided on the issue of assisting the Taliban-led government.

Some countries and aid organizations have demanded that the new government meet certain conditions – such as guaranteeing women’s rights – in return for the aid. Others have warned that conditioning aid risks plunging the country into a humanitarian catastrophe.

More than half a million Afghans were driven from their homes during the Taliban’s four-month military campaign this summer, and many of them still live in makeshift camps. A drought that has affected much of the country has caused a severe food shortage, according to the World Food Program. And the country faces a major economic crisis with the Taliban cut off from both international banking systems and the foreign aid that supported the previous government.

About 18 million Afghans, nearly half the population, are now in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, according to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

On Wednesday, the World Health Organization warned that two-thirds of the roughly 2,300 health facilities it supports were running out of essential drugs. Only about 400 are working now.

These facilities, the backbone of the country’s health system, are part of a $ 600 million project administered by the World Bank and funded by the United States Agency for International Development, the European Union and others .

2,500 more health facilities are also no longer functioning, said Matheou. More than 20,000 health workers are out of work, either because facilities have closed or their salaries have been frozen.

This has fueled fears of an increase in deaths from basic medical conditions and a crippling brain drain as doctors seek work elsewhere or leave the country.

“Our doctors have not received their salaries for three months now,” said Dr Mohammad Farid Rasouli, who works in the anesthesia ward at Aliabad hospital in Kabul. So far, medical staff at the hospital are showing up for work every day, he said, but “if we don’t get our wages we may quit.”

Afghans across the country are feeling the pressure.

“I have a head injury and kidney problems, but I don’t have the money to go to the doctor,” said Noor Muhammad, 55. “If I don’t pay, no one will help me.

Originally from the northern province of Balkh, Muhammad has lived in Kabul in the Charahi Qambar refugee camp for 17 years. Wedged between apartment buildings and a multi-lane thoroughfare, the camp is the size of a city block – a patchwork of squat mud-brick houses with narrow, muddy lanes and open sewers. It hosts refugees mainly from Helmand province in southern Afghanistan.

Near the mosque and the water pump, children ran around the dusty square, while one man sold boiled corn and another fresh bananas and pomegranates.

Muhammad Wali, 50, was among hundreds of people who moved to Helmand refugee camp two months ago, as fighting between the Taliban and previous government forces intensified in the south of the country. Afghanistan.

For weeks, his hometown, Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital, was hit by airstrikes by government forces and fighting between Taliban fighters and Afghan troops. Wali went north after his house was destroyed and the Taliban started ordering residents to leave the city, he said.

But he and many others in the resettlement camp have yet to find work, and are struggling to buy basic items as prices skyrocket.

“All over Afghanistan, people are facing famine, especially the many refugees who live in these camps,” he said. “People here don’t even have the money to buy a loaf of bread.”


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