Afghanistan’s healthcare struggles amid Covid-19

 Doctor in Kabul hospital briefs the staff Doctor in Kabul hospital briefs the staff ICRC, New Delhi

17 June 2020

Afghanistan recently witnessed a surge in violent attacks on civilians threatening the healthcare system of the country

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported on 17th June that millions of civilian lives are threatened in Afghanistan. Civilians don't have easy access to health services. Covid-19, coupled with increasing violent attacks, poses serious danger to the lives of Afghans as the healthcare system is unable to cater to so many civilians.

Juan Pedro Schaerer, the head of the ICRC delegation in Afghanistan, expressed concern over the rising numbers of violent attacks in the country resulting in casualties amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Afghanistan's healthcare system has suffered due to constant militant attacks, lack of funds, and limited access to conflict regions. Now, due to the increase in violent attacks, the pressure on healthcare is exacerbated.

'Most advanced in the world have faced unprecedented challenges due to Covid-19' said  Juan Pedro Schaerer, 'A country where gunmen attack a hospital stands no chance at providing quality care. We see it in health facilities in conflict-affected areas and in prisons, where people have already limited access to healthcare'.

According to a 2019 government report, Afghanistan has 172 hospitals and four doctors per 10,000 people, in a population of 37 million people. Johns Hopkins University collected data for May 2020, which reported that 26,000 people have so far tested positive for the Coronavirus, and nearly 500 have died. The numbers pose a difficult challenge for the Afghanistan healthcare system. Mirwais Regional Hospital located in Southern Afghanistan caters to 6 million people and many patients come from areas where hostilities between the Taliban and government forces continue. The hospital faces equipment shortages such as masks and hand gel and added to this, violent outbreaks disrupt resource supply.

The fight against Covid-19 requires a conflict resolution and strong commitments from all parties. ICRC, with the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement, is committed to providing substantial aid to Afghanistan during the pandemic.

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Author: Saumya Bhardwaj

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