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WHO Calls On Donors To Restart Afghan Health Funding

Afghan health workers unload coronavirus vaccines at Kabul airport.

The World Health Organization (WHO) called on the international community on September 23 to resume funding of Afghanistan's health program that was suspended after the Taliban returned to power last month.

Despite concerns that Afghanistan is veering toward a humanitarian crisis, many international donors have been reticent to pump money into the Taliban-led government, some of whose members are on international sanctions lists.

"In the recent weeks, access to health care has significantly declined for hundreds of thousands of some of the most vulnerable Afghans," Luo Dapeng, WHO's representative to Afghanistan, told a news conference in Geneva.

"The country's already-fragile health system is overwhelmed," Dapeng said, adding that the WHO was coordinating with donors to find alternative funding mechanisms for health facilities.

A $600 million three-year health initiative supervised by the World Bank in Afghanistan has funded the operation of hundreds of health facilities, but WHO estimates that less than one-fifth were now fully functional.

Dapeng said that lack of funding has already led to a surge in cases of measles and diarrhea, with half of Afghan children at risk of malnutrition and millions of COVID-19 vaccines sitting unused.

Despite foreign governments promising millions of dollars in urgent humanitarian aid, doubts are rising about longer term development and other funding to an economy highly dependent on international assistance.

On September 22, the United Nations said it was releasing $45 million to help the collapse of Afghanistan’s health-care system.

Based on reporting by AFP and AP