Most of the health facilities in Afghanistan's isolated Uruzgan Province have closed due to threats from the Taliban, local officials said.
Only eight health centers out of 59 total, including public hospitals and clinics, remain open across the province, which has a population of 362,253, Khan Aqa Miakhel, head of Uruzgan's public health, told the German news agency dpa on September 24.
The main hospital in the capital, Tarin Kot, just a few hundred meters from the provincial governor's palace, had to close on September 23 after the Taliban threatened to attack health facilities, Miakhel said.
The hospital reopened after mediation from local tribal elders a day later, he told dpa.
Uruzgan, which abuts the Taliban heartlands of Kandahar and Helmand, has been under intense pressure from the insurgents for years.
A Taliban spokesman confirmed that its fighters had closed down dozens of treatment centers but said it was done because of poor services.
"In most of these centers, there was no proper medication. There were no doctors or health-care personnel," the spokesman told Reuters. "We asked repeatedly for better services, but no one cared. Now, if the local administration does not provide basics, we will."
The closing of health facilities also appears to reflect the difficulty the Western-backed government in Kabul has in exerting control in provinces where the insurgency is strongest.
According to a World Health Organization report earlier this month, 164 Afghan health facilities have closed their doors since the beginning of the year due to increasing insecurity.
U.S. officials estimate that the Taliban controls or contests around 40 percent of the country.
Based on reporting by dpa and Reuters