24 mothers, 167 infants die in Afghanistan each day, WHO reports

Photo: WHO

KABUL — Afghanistan faces a staggering daily toll of 24 maternal deaths and 167 infant deaths due to preventable causes, according to a new report released Sunday by the World Health Organization.

The report underscores the continuing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, highlighting the multifaceted challenges that citizens endure daily.

“Afghan citizens face an unstable health system and the daily specter of food scarcity and malnutrition,” the WHO states. This crisis is further exacerbated by the burden of both communicable and noncommunicable diseases, frequent disease outbreaks, severe drought, and natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes.

The situation for Afghan women has particularly deteriorated, with limited access to education and livelihoods. The WHO report emphasizes that the need for humanitarian assistance has surged dramatically. “The population in dire need has increased from 18.4 million people before August 2021 to an estimated 23.7 million in 2024,” the report notes. Despite these needs, about 9.5 million people in over 20,000 villages still lack access to basic health services.

Children and women bear the brunt of this health emergency, becoming increasingly vulnerable to adverse health outcomes. “Preventable maternal mortality claims the lives of 24 mothers every day, and a staggering 167 infants die each day of preventable causes,” the WHO report highlights. Furthermore, Afghanistan’s high level of food insecurity affects 15.8 million people, a situation worsened by three consecutive years of drought that have left most of the country’s provinces with severe water scarcity or poor water quality.

Polio remains a concern, although there have been significant gains in its eradication since 2021. “Six children were paralyzed by poliovirus in Afghanistan in 2023, compared to 59 in 2020,” the WHO reports. The report stresses that while there has been progress, challenges persist due to a complex humanitarian crisis involving government transitions, economic downturns, and substantial deficiencies in health service provision.

The ongoing geopolitical situation has also affected the health sector, leading to reduced international support. “The health sector is struggling to meet the surging demand for services,” the WHO report states. Severe underfunding led to the closure of 428 static and mobile health facilities between January and December 2023, impacting over 3 million individuals, including more than 600,000 children under five and over 240,000 pregnant and lactating women.

To build on the progress achieved, WHO Afghanistan requires an additional $352 million to supplement the overall budget of $423 million for the 2024–2025 biennium.