The United Nations aid chief has released $45m in emergency funds to Afghanistan in a bid to prevent Afghanistan’s battered healthcare system from collapsing.
Martin Griffiths, the UN’s under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, said in a statement on Wednesday that he was releasing funds from the UN’s Central Emergency Response Fund to boost life-saving support in Afghanistan.
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“Allowing Afghanistan’s healthcare delivery system to fall apart would be disastrous,” he said, adding that medicines, medical supplies and fuel were running out and that essential healthcare workers were not being paid.
“People across the country would be denied access to primary health care such as emergency caesarean sections and trauma care.”
Afghanistan’s healthcare system was plunged into crisis after the Taliban swept into power last month. International donors, including the World Bank and European Union, have frozen funding to Afghanistan, complicating aid deliveries and leaving many health facilities understaffed.
The funds will go to the UN’s health and children’s agencies, allowing them – with the help of partner NGOs – to keep hospitals, COVID-19 centres and other health facilities operating until the end of the year.
“The UN is determined to stand by the people of Afghanistan in their hour of need,” Griffiths said.
Aid agencies have warned of an “impending humanitarian crisis” unless aid flows resume in the country. The World Health Organization said earlier this month that 90 percent of its clinics were slated to close imminently as the situation in Afghanistan was becoming increasingly desperate.
The International Monetary Fund has expressed deep concern about the country’s economic situation. IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said small-scale transfers of remittances had been granted, but that global lender’s engagement with Afghanistan remains suspended.
Filipe Ribeiro, Afghanistan representative for Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF), told Reuters last month that “one of the great risks for the health system here is basically to collapse because of lack of support”.
Aid agencies that are still operative have seen a significant increase in demand as other facilities are unable to fully function.
The closure of Afghan banks has meant nearly all humanitarian agencies have been unable to access funds, leaving vendors and staff unpaid. Medical supplies also need to be restocked earlier than expected.
Last week, the UN drummed up more than than $1.2bn in emergency pledges for Afghanistan, exceeding the $606m it was seeking to cover costs through the end of the year.
Griffiths had urged donors to turn pledges into cash contributions as fast as possible, saying “the funding will throw a lifeline to Afghans” who lack food, health care and protection.
The situation in Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover was one of the talking points at a ministerial meeting in Geneva on Monday, with UN chief Antonio Guterres stressing the need to defend human rights, especially of women and girls.