Kuala Lumpur/Kabul/Geneva, 23 February –The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies calls for urgent global support for health and testing services, and vaccinations to slow the spread of COVID-19 that is surging across all areas of Afghanistan, stretching the country’s fragile healthcare system.
A new wave is hitting Afghanistan hard. Testing is inadequate, and the World Health Organisation reports that almost half of tested samples are coming back positive, indicating an alarming spread of the virus.
With only 10 per cent of people fully vaccinated according to Our World in Data, the country’s fragile health system is struggling to cope with the surge in COVID-19 infections after dozens of COVID-19 health facilities were forced to close due to lack of medicines, essential medical supplies, and a lack of funds to pay for utilities and salaries of health workers.
Fewer than 10 of the country’s 37 public COVID-19 health facilities remain functional, and they are unable to keep up with demand.
Afghan Red Crescent is ramping up services at its health clinics across Afghanistan and its COVID-19 hospital in Kabul while supporting nationwide vaccination efforts and running information campaigns on preventing spread of the disease.
Mawlawi Mutiul Haq Khales, Afghan Red Crescent Acting President, said:
“As the number of COVID-19 infections increase from cities to remote corners of the country, the international community needs to open up the doors to support critical healthcare, testing and other essential services before it’s too late for the people of Afghanistan.
"It is vital to increase the number of functional COVID-19 health facilities so that pressure can be eased on the few functioning hospitals.”
International sanctions have severed hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid that is critical for maintaining the country’s health care system, including forcing the closure of dozens of COVID-19 case management facilities.
Compounding the health crisis, a measles outbreak has infected thousands and killed dozens of people last month alone in Afghanistan.
Necephor Mghendi, IFRC’s Head of Delegation for Afghanistan, said:
“The measles outbreak is alarming since Afghanistan is in the middle of one of the worst droughts and food crises in decades, leaving children malnourished and far more vulnerable to the highly contagious disease.
"It’s crucial for us to get relief to communities struggling in the face of multiple crises and severe hunger, while urgently investing in local institutions that deliver vital basic services including COVID-19 testing, treatment and vaccinations.
“Locally staffed community health programs and a well-functioning public health system are proven ways to help the most vulnerable in the communities across Afghanistan.”
As part of this ongoing support, the IFRC is urgently appealing to the international community for more than 65 million Swiss francs to support the Afghan Red Crescent to deliver health services, emergency relief and recovery assistance to more than 1 million people in the provinces hit by multiple crises.
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