Call for Aid to Afghanistan

Apr 01, 2002

Brussels, Belgium-Tackling communicable diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis and making pregnancy and childbirth safer are priorities for the restructured Afghan health ministry, according to World Health Organization officials.

WHO, the United Nations Children's Fund, and non-governmental organizations have launched an appeal for nearly $130 million for immediate reconstruction of the war-torn country's health system, including vital medicines.

"Developing a functional healthcare system must be a top priority in the reconstruction of Afghanistan," says Dr. Mohammed Jama, WHO regional coordinator for the Afghanistan crisis. "As long as hundreds of thousands of Afghans continue to die from preventable diseases, a stable future for the country cannot be guaranteed."

A WHO mission to Afghanistan revealed a shortage of essential medicines that donations have only marginally improved in recent months. WHO is asking for $25 million to set up medical stores across the country.

Other priorities include the integrated management of childhood illnesses, the establishment of mental health services, and a safe blood transfusion service. "This package of basic services is designed to offer the basis of acceptable healthcare in Afghanistan," says Dr. Said Youssouf, WHO representative in Afghanistan.

The WHO appeal would amount to spending slightly more than $5 per person per year in Afghanistan. The organization estimates that $34 per person per year is needed for basic health services, but the present Afghani health infrastructure cannot handle such large amounts.