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UN agencies, partners urge major investment in Afghanistan’s health sector

UN agencies, partners urge major investment in Afghanistan’s health sector

Aiming to ensure that all Afghans receive basic medical services, United Nations agencies and their partners are calling on donors to invest $200 million in Afghanistan’s health sector over the next two and a half years, the UN World Health Organization (WHO) reported today.

Currently, 65 per cent of all Afghans lack access to health facilities, while only about a third of all Afghan children are immunized against childhood diseases, WHO said. The need for equitable access to health care throughout the country was highlighted by a recent mission comprising experts from WHO, the World Bank, European Community, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the Asian Development Bank and the United Kingdom’s Department of International Development.

The mission called for providing an “essential services package” to ensure every Afghan has access to basic health care. The package would include reproductive health care, communicable disease control centred on early detection and treatment, as well as nutritional support and vaccinations for women and children.

Experts from the mission also pointed out that in order to equally distribute health care services in Afghanistan, they will have to be extended to the country’s rural areas, which are currently not as well covered as cities. Kabul, for example, has 12 per cent of the population but nearly half of all the hospital beds in the country. The capital city also has one doctor per 1,000 people, compared to just one per 100,000 people in the central province of Bamiyan.

“Improving access to essential health services will eventually require the construction of about 1,000 new health facilities and the rehabilitation of existing health care facilities throughout the country,” WHO said.