Health in Afghanistan

By Abdullah Qazi
Last updated: August 6, 2018

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health has the responsibility to oversee all matters related to the health Afghanistan’s population. The head of the ministry is nominated by Afghanistan’s President and approved by the Parliament.

Ministry of Public Health Logo

THE MISSION STATEMENT OF THE MINISTRY OF PUBLIC HEALTH:  The Mission of the Ministry of Public Health of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is to prevent ill health and achieve significant reductions in mortality in line with national targets and sustainable development goals and to reduce impoverishment due to catastrophic health expenditure. Also to be responsive to the rights of all citizens through improving access and utilization of quality, equitable, affordable health and nutrition services among all communities especially mothers and children in rural areas and through changing attitudes and practices, promoting healthy life-styles and effectively implementing other public health interventions. All in coordination and collaboration with other stakeholders within the framework of strong leadership, sustained political will and commitment, good governance, and effective and efficient management; in its continuous pursuit to become a ministerial ‘institution of excellence’.


Dr. Ferozuddin Feroz

The current head of the Ministry of Public Health is Dr. Ferozudin Feroz. Dr. Feroz was nominated and approved in February 2015.

Minister’s Office:
Phone #: +93-20-230-1377


Health Complaints Office:
Phone: +93-747-242444

Afghanistan Health Statistics

Healthcare System / Services

Health expenditures: 8.2% of GDP (2014) – (i)

Physicians density: 0.3 physicians/1,000 population (2016) – (i)

0.5 nurses and midwives/1,000 population (2011) (v)

The number of midwifes increased from 500 in 2002 to 5,000 in 2016 – (i-b)

Hospital bed density: 0.5 beds/1,000 population (2014) – (i)

60 percent of the population has access to health services, defined as being within one hour’s walking distance – (i-a)

20 percent of 41,500 Afghan health workers are women (2018) – (i-b)

Both the quantity and quality of essential medicines are major challenges for the health system. As there is no national regulatory authority, medicines, vaccines, biological agents, laboratory agents and medical devices are not properly regulated, making legislation and law enforcement almost impossible. (v)

Traditional medicine is widely utilized as it is less expensive and more readily accessible. (v)


There has been an improvement in overall routine immunization coverage for traditional and new and underutilized vaccines. (v)

Immunization coverage among 1-year-olds improved between 1990 and 2013 for BCG from 30.0% to 75.0%, DTP3 from 25.0% to 71.0%, measles from 20.0% to 75.0% and polio from 25.0% to 71.0%. Neonatal tetanus coverage increased during the same period from 13.0% to 65.0%. In 2013, hepatitis B vaccine coverage among 1-year-olds was 71.0%. (v)

Infant and Maternal Health

Maternal mortality ratio: 396 deaths/100,000 live births (2015 est.) (i)

The maternal mortality ratio declined by 70.4% between 1990 and 2015 (from 1,340 to 396 per 100,000 live births), and the under-5 mortality rate decreased by 49.7% (from 181 to 91 deaths per 1000 live births). (v)

The leading causes of maternal mortality are postpartum haemorrhage, eclampsia and sepsis; for under-5 mortality they are acute respiratory infection (20.0%), diarrhoea (14.0%), prematurity (13.0%) and intrapartum related complications (11.0%). The proportion of women receiving antenatal care coverage (at least one visit) is 47.9% and at least four visits is 14.6%. (v)

Infant mortality rate
total: 110.6 deaths/1,000 live births (i)
male: 118 deaths/1,000 live births (i)
female: 102.9 deaths/1,000 live births (2017 est.) (i)

Total fertility rate:  5.12 children born/woman (2017 est.) (i)
Contraceptive prevalence rate:  22.5% (2015/16) (i)
Mother’s mean age at first birth: 19.9 years (i)
Median age at first birth among women 25-29 (2015 est.) (i)

Life expectancy– (i)

total population: 51.7 years
male: 50.3 years
female: 53.2 years (2017 est.)

Sanitation facility access – (i)

urban: 45.1% of population
rural: 27% of population
total: 31.9% of population

urban: 54.9% of population
rural: 73% of population
total: 68.1% of population (2015 est.)

Infectious Diseases

Major Infectious Diseases – (i)

  • Degree of risk: intermediate
  • Food or waterborne diseases: bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, and typhoid fever
  • Vector-borne disease: malaria (2016) – Afghanistan is considered a high risk country for malaria. However, the total confirmed malaria cases decreased by 85% between 2003 and 2012. (v)

From the beginning of 2018, until May 2018,  a total of 43 cases of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (5 deaths) and 157 measles outbreaks (2,005 cases and 12 deaths) have been reported in 31 provinces  (iv).

The tuberculosis-related mortality rate is estimated at 42 per 100, 000 population. (v)

Afghanistan is endemic for cutaneous and visceral leishmaniasis, as well as blinding trachoma.  In 2010, more than 2.5 million people were treated for soil-transmitted helminthiasis and 203 people were treated for trachoma. (v)


Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan are the two remaining polio-endemic countries in the world. Insecurity and bans from anti-government militants such as DAESH/ISIS and the Taliban prevent successful implementation of polio vaccination campaigns.

Number of reported wild poliovirus cases in Afghanistan:

Source: World Health Organization (as of June 30, 2018)


HIV prevalence is low. The most affected population is people who inject drugs. (v)

  • Adult prevalence rate: <.1% (2016 est.) (i)
  • People living with HIV/AIDS: 7,500 (2016 est.) (i)
  • Deaths: <500 (2016 est.) (i)

Noncommunicable diseases

Noncommunicable diseases account for 36.6% of all deaths; cardiovascular diseases account for 18.6%, cancers 6.2%, respiratory diseases 2.7% and diabetes mellitus 1.4% of all deaths – (2015) (v).

Disabilities and rehabilitation

The prevalence of disability is 2.7% and is higher among males (3.1%) than females (2.3%). Prevalence is highest in the age group of 10–19 years (23.5%) and lowest among those aged 50–59 years (8.0%)(2012). Of the types of disability, 36.5% are physical, 25.5% are visual, 18.8% are intellectual and 9.7% are mental. Multiple disabilities constitute 9.4% of all disabilities. (v)


Obesity – adult prevalence rate: 5.5% (2016) (i)

The prevalence of various conditions of malnutrition in children under 5 years is as follows: 32.9% underweight, 8.6% wasting, 3.5% severe wasting, 59.3% stunting, 4.6% overweight. (v)

Initiation of breastfeeding within one hour after birth is 53.6%, while more than half (54.3%) of the children age 0–5 months are exclusively breastfed (17); low birth weight is 6.0%. (v)

The estimated prevalence of anaemia in women of reproductive age (15–49 years) is 40.4% (v)

Iodine deficiency affects 20.4% of the population (v)

Drug Addiction

Number of drug addicts: 3 million (12% of population), 2015 estimate (ii)

More than 35 percent of Afghan citizens smoke cigarettes (iii)

Mental Health

Mental health crises is largely driven by decades of violent conflict in Afghanistan.

Neuropsychiatric disorders are estimated to contribute to 6.7% of the burden of disease. (v)

Accurate data on depression and mental health disorders is not available, however, according to recent estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO) more than a million Afghans suffer from depressive disorders while over 1.2 million suffer from anxiety disorders. (vii)

Suicide: 5.7 deaths per 100,000 population per year (2015) (v)
Estimated that 80% of suicide attempts are made by women (vi)

Afghanistan has only one high-security psychiatric facility (Red Crescent Secure Psychiatric Institution), where many of the patients are often chained and sedated. (viii)


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