The World Health Organization expressed grave concern about healthcare access in Afghanistan on Friday, as US soldiers prepare to leave the war-torn country.
“It’s a terribly concerning situation, and it’s very fluid right now,” said Rick Brennan, the WHO emergencies director in the Eastern Mediterranean region.
“We are clearly concerned about the decline in the access to healthcare,” he added, speaking to journalists in Geneva via video-link from Cairo.
The World Health Organization is concerned about Afghanistan’s healthcare as the Taliban gains ground. As US soldiers continue to withdraw from Afghanistan, the Taliban claimed control of 85 percent of the country on Friday, including a major border crossing with Iran.
The Taliban announced that militants had seized the border town of Islam Qala, completing an arc of land stretching from the Iranian border to the Chinese border, only hours after US President Joe Biden gave a vehement defense of the pullout.
Brennan claimed that some healthcare workers had gone because of security concerns, but that others had returned.
“It’s a mixed picture right now,” he said.
According to Brennan, the WHO has no direct connections or dialogue with the Taliban.
However, he claimed the UN agency had received pleas from several Taliban-controlled districts for it to “remain to ensure the continuation of health services.”
He emphasized that the WHO, particularly its polio vaccination route, had previously been able to stay and offer services under challenging circumstances.
“I think that is going to provide us a platform to continue to provide services, but … things can change on a daily basis and we are clearly very concerned,” he said.
The latest turmoil in Afghanistan comes as the country grapples with a number of problems, including a devastating third wave of Covid-19 infections, and low vaccination rates, with fewer than 4% of the population inoculated.
Officially, there have been 131,586 cases and 5,561 Covid fatalities in the country, but Brennan underlined that these data “reflect a considerable underestimation.”
More than 1.4 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson single-dose vaccine arrived in Afghanistan on Friday, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
They were the first of a total of 3.3 million doses provided by the US and distributed through the vaccine-sharing portal Covax.
While this cargo is very appreciated, UNICEF and the WHO have stated that many more vaccines are required to help stem the exponential surge in cases in Afghanistan since last month.
“We’ll need millions more to reach the target,” Brennan added, referring to the WHO’s declaration that every country must vaccinate at least 40% of its population by the end of the year.
Source: THE GUARDIAN