Health in Afghanistan

By Abdullah Qazi / March 5, 2018
Last updated: August 1, 2020

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. Ahmad Jawad Osmani

The current head of the Ministry of Public Health is Dr. Ahmad Jawad Osmani. On May 31, President Ashraf Ghani appointed Dr. Osmani as the acting Minister of Public Health, replacing Dr. Ferozudin Feroz. Dr. Feroz had been nominated and approved on 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 2019, until August 14, 2019, more than 300 cases of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) were reported. Out of that, there has been 32 deaths. (xiv)

From the beginning of 2018, until May 2018, 157 measles outbreaks (2,005 cases and 12 deaths) were 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)

COVID-19 / Coronavirus disease 2019
SARS-CoV-2 (novel coronavirus)

Afghanistan’s first case of COVID-19 was confirmed on February 24, 2020 in Herat province.  The first death was reported to have occurred on March 19, 2020 (confirmed on March 22 by health officials). While the virus was first detected in Herat, Kabul soon ended up with the highest number of cases. In mid March, the government implemented various measures and ordered lock-downs to slow the rate of infection.  Nowroz celebrations were cancelled, and the government told the people to avoid large mass gatherings.

As of August 1, 2020, the death rate in Afghanistan is 3.5%.  COVID-19 has further devastated the health care sector, and the economy of Afghanistan, which was already heavily damaged because of war in the country. For the latest news on the coronavirus in Afghanistan, click here.


Nigeria, Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan are the only 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 in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Number of reported wild poliovirus cases in Afghanistan:

Source: World Health Organization (WHO) / Data as of June 26, 2019


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).


  • According to the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), 20,000 are diagnosed with some form of cancer per year, 80% of those die. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in Afghanistan. According to MoPH, 3,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018.  The only cancer treatment center in the Jumhoriat Hospital in Kabul has 65 beds which according to officials cannot meet the increasing number of cancer patients. (xiii)

Afghanistan has 52,000 patients with cardiovascular disease per year. Almost 50 percent of cardiac disease patients die due to lack of medical facilities, medical equipment and lack of heart specialists (ix).


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 in Afghanistan: 3 million (12% of population), 2015 estimate (ii)

  • At least 1 million women and 100,000 children are drug addicts. There are 20 drug rehabilitation centers across the country that treat women and children. (x)

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.

Suicide attacks, bombings and poverty are said to be the main causes of the mental health problems in Afghanistan. Afghans suffer mostly from anxiety and stress. (xi)

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)

Around 400 psychologists affiliated with the Ministry of Public Health are operating in the country. (xi)

According to the International Psychological Organisation (IPO), 70% of people in Afghanistan are in need of mental health support. (xii)

Social stigma is a barrier to accessing mental health treatment in Afghanistan. Even today, some Afghans in rural, uneducated areas, believe the person is possessed by a jinn (demon).


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