Afghanistan’s health care system has been struggling for years, and the suspension of international aid as a result of recent political developments has made things even worse. In Herat, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is witnessing a worrisome increase in malnutrition. Here, former MSF project coordinator Mamman Mustapha discusses the situation.
What has the health situation looked like in Herat over the past couple of months, since the Taliban took over?
The health care system is at risk of collapsing across the whole country, including in Herat. Access to care was a major issue in Afghanistan well before the Taliban takeover, but today the situation has further degraded, as most international aid has been suspended, including the World Bank funding of the World Health Organization’s basic and essential care programs covering Herat’s province.
Health facilities in the area are either closing or reduced to providing minimum services with whatever residual resources are available. We have no idea what is going to happen to these facilities. People are jobless and poor, they cannot afford private care, some of the humanitarian organizations previously working in the area are yet to resume their activities in full.
Herat Regional Hospital, where MSF runs an inpatient therapeutic feeding center (ITFC), lost some of its key staff as the director and some of its most senior medical personnel left the country just before the fall of the city to the Taliban. The result has been a lack of governance in the hospital and many administrative challenges. Outside of the MSF-run ITFC, salaries have not been paid for five months, there are not enough medical supplies, and there is no money to pay for maintenance. Meanwhile, wards are full of patients.
In a nutshell, needs are everywhere and the system is failing.