Accessing quality and timely healthcare continues to be a challenge for people in Afghanistan, especially women, due to widespread poverty and a weakened public health system that has remained unable to cope with growing health needs, Médecins Sans Frontiers (MSF) said in a report published this week.
In the report, issued Monday, and titled Persistent Barriers to Access Healthcare in Afghanistan, MSF said the cost of medical care, the cost of transport, the lack of quality healthcare near people’s homes, and conflict have all been major obstacles for years.
However, on top of these existing challenges, Afghans have now also been impacted by the effects of an economic crisis, MSF stated.
According to the organization, “the healthcare delivery model in Afghanistan was already dysfunctional and has suffered further in recent years from the effects of insufficient investment, inappropriate allocation of funds and short-term contracts. All of which blocked the way for much-needed long-term strategies and coherent planning.”
The situation deteriorated between 2021 and 2022 and “barely remained afloat due to insufficient or inadequate funding. The solutions that have been found are temporary ones and are not sustainable long term,” the report stated, adding that in its current state, the health system is unable to meet the growing medical needs of the people of Afghanistan.
MSF teams work in six provinces in Afghanistan, in Helmand, Kunduz, Herat, Kandahar, Khost, and Kabul, but recently expanded to include Bamiyan – where teams provide a range of services including maternity, malnutrition, and trauma care, and treatment for diseases such as tuberculosis and measles.
In its report, MSF urged all stakeholders, and international to urgently address the humanitarian crisis; to support the banking system, in order to alleviate the liquidity crisis.
The MSF also stated that organizations “cannot remain as the de facto substitutes for the public health sector.
The report stated that “while international organizations may have averted the collapse of the healthcare system, this is not a sustainable role for them to play. And the MoPH needs to be involved in identifying and working through the implementation of long-term solutions for the Afghan healthcare system.”
MSF also stated that increased and sustained funding is essential so that the Afghan healthcare system can benefit from sufficient and long-term planning. Durable solutions for existing medical needs should be prioritized.
“It’s urgent and of utmost importance to provide affordable and accessible healthcare to the people of Afghanistan and improve the ability of the healthcare system to both respond to emergencies and be capable of meeting the immediate medical needs of the population.”
The organization stated that significant and urgent investment is needed to improve health facilities, especially in the districts
In addition, the MSF called on the Taliban authorities to “refrain from imposing restrictions that impede or delay people’s access to healthcare, or humanitarian and development aid. And continue to allow and facilitate timely and dignified access to healthcare, without conditionality.”
The organization also said women should be allowed to work in all areas of Afghan life, and that education should be available for everyone.