A joint statement on the collaboration between the government of Afghanistan and the IFRC on universal health coverage

Published: 22 May 2013

Her Excellency Dr Suraya Dalil, Minister of Public Health of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and Mr Bekele Geleta, Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), met today at the IFRC during the 66th World Health Assembly.

The people of Afghanistan have suffered a devastating toll during the past two decades. Despite the many challenges, Afghanistan has made admirable achievements. However, in conflict areas, more than half of children still have poor access to immunization services.

In recent years, Dr Suraya Dalil has led the Ministry of Public Health and empowered it to become an engine of change for public health, working hand in hand with the Afghan Red Crescent Society to reach the most vulnerable. Much has been achieved, but a multitude of challenges still remain.

Dr Suraya Dalil and Mr Bekele Geleta reiterated the central role of community-led engagement and greater access in reaching our immunization goals. Immunization is a unique doorway and a vehicle to scale up maternal and child health services to the people who need them most, as well as help to improve health systems.

Dr Suraya applauded the work of the Afghan Red Crescent Society's health clinics and mobile health teams. She specifically praised the key role played by skilled female volunteers in her country, where human resources in health have been decimated, leaving behind  scarce numbers of qualified health professionals, who are predominantly male. More than 2,000 Red Crescent women volunteers are actively engaged in community health programmes in 34 provinces.

Trained Red Crescent volunteers, who live in the same community as the local population and speak the same language, can help reach the most inaccessible, poor and marginalized communities and help bridge social, cultural and other barriers that impede progress towards providing universal coverage of immunization. Dr Dalil and Mr Geleta are committed to eradicating polio in Afghanistan.

The Ministry of Public Health of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Red Cross Red Crescent stand ready to continue to work together to reach every child everywhere, and help achieve universal health coverage.