Afghanistan health system on collapse: ‘Doctors do emergency operations with flashlight’

Afghan health care is about to collapse, doctors and development organizations say. For years, the international community has funded healthcare in Afghanistan through the World Bank. But now that the Taliban is in power, no money is being transferred.

DeCCeit spoke to a doctor who works in a hospital in Kabul. He is less and less able to help his patients. Because of security reasons, he wants to remain anonymous. โ€œIt‘s a hopeless situation. Hospitals have fewer and fewer medicines, electricity and fuel, for example. There’s nothing left in a few weeks,โ€ he says.

โ€œThere are even doctors who have to do emergency surgery in the light of a flashlight. Patients and their families should bring their own food to the hospital, as there is hardly any food available.โ€

The doctor is very concerned about the deteriorated situation. โ€œWe fear that people will be out of access to basic care soon. That can happen any time now. Health is not politics. Patients are patients.โ€

Departure of care staff

The Afghan doctor fears that there are fewer and fewer healthcare staff available as he believes that the staff has not been paid for months. โ€œThere are still plenty of doctors available now, but if the flow of money doesn‘t get back up and running soon, there’s a good chance that healthcare staff will leave.โ€

The family must also be maintained, says Willem Reussing, programme manager of development organisation HealthNet TPO. The organization, which has been providing medical assistance in Afghanistan since the 1990s and is headquartered in Amsterdam, hears the harrowing stories of Afghan healthcare workers on a daily basis.

โ€œGradually, the whole system stops,โ€ Reussing says. โ€œThen a hospital can‘t function, people can’t be helped and surgery can‘t be performed. That will lead to people’s deaths.โ€

That is why a solution, according to Reussing, is urgently needed – one where care can be funded without Taliban intervention. โ€œThe problem is that the Taliban are still a terrorist organization. And whether that is going to change is still the question.โ€

Next Reussing, direct funding for NGOs could be a solution. โ€œThat happened when the Taliban were in power in the past as well. NGOs were then directly funded by, for example, the EU, USAID and the World Bank.โ€

A banking system through the World Health Organization (WHO) or through the UN could help. โ€œSo that the flows of money go there without them getting into the hands of current rulers.โ€

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