Growing number of Afghans lack health care - Ministry

KABUL, 7 April 2009 (IRIN) - Over 600,000 Afghans lack basic healthcare services due to attacks on healthcare facilities and health workers - a figure that has doubled since 2007, Abdullah Fahim, a spokesman for the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), has said.

About 32 health centres were torched, destroyed and/or closed down due to insecurity in 2007, and 28 health facilities were shut down or attacked in 2008, MoPH said.

Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and MoPH are calling on all Afghans and warring parties, especially the insurgents, to understand the neutrality of health centres: “We call on the Taliban to respect the neutrality of health services and stop attacking health workers and health centres as they are in the field just to help people in need of health care,” Fahim said.

World Health Day, which is marked on 7 April 2009, focuses on the safety of health facilities and the preparedness of health workers for emergencies.

“Frankly, there is no other country in the world really where this message is more important… The lives of health workers are put on the line every day when they try to deliver services,” Sophia Craig, WHO health cluster coordinator for Afghanistan, told IRIN.

Craig said there had been an increase in the number of attacks on health facilities and health workers over the past year.

Afghanistan has one of the highest maternal and infant (0-12 months) mortality rates in the world, according to WHO. Every hour at least two Afghan women die from obstetric complications due in part to the lack of health services. In each batch of 1,000 live births, at least 125 infants die, and one in five children die from mostly preventable diseases before their fifth birthday, the UN Children’s Fund and the MoPH said in 2008.

Meanwhile, the security situation is deteriorating, according to a 10 March 2009 report by the UN secretary-general.   

Source: Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), a project the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. IRIN is UN humanitarian news and information service, but may not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies.

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]


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