By Zia-ul-Islam Shirani / CSRS
After the World Health Organization (WHO) founded in 6 April, 1948, the April 7th is celebrated as the World Health Day in most of the countries in order to grab the global attention to health issues and thus, Afghanistan has also celebrated this day since many years.
The World Health Day became celebrated by the Afghan Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) under the theme of Universal Health Coverage (UHC): Everyone, Everywhere; however, there is 40% of Afghans that have been deprived from healthcare services due to several reasons, according to the statistics of WHO.
After 2001, however, the world donated billions of dollars to Afghanistan and hospital and public and private healthcare centers became established in Capital and provinces; but the Afghan people still encounter severe problems in the field of healthcare services and hence, most of them, by perforce, have to travel to other countries, especially Pakistan and India, for treatment.
The condition of health sector in Afghanistan, the increase in cases of various diseases and problems and challenges seen in the Afghan health sector are discussed in the analysis.
Healthcare Services in Afghanistan
95 years passes from establishment of first healthcare center in Afghanistan; however, after almost one century, Afghanistan still ranks among the countries where 91 per every 1000 newborn are died. The most important reason behind this backwardness is foreign campaigns on Afghanistan and continuation of war in the country.
After the collapse of the Taliban regime, the Afghan government received billions of dollar of aid from international community and besides other field, the health sector also became taken care. As there were 143 main healthcare centers, 2504 doctors and 557 pharmacists in the country in 1369 (solar year); however, this number increased by several times after 1381, during last one and a half decade.
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), there were 170 public and 388 private hospitals operating in Afghanistan in 1395. Also, there were 417 complex healthcare centers, 923 main healthcare centers and 833 secondary healthcare centers active in the country.
The Afghan Minister of Public Health, Dr. Ferozuddin Feroz emphasized that despite the lack of funding, the health sector has had significant improvements in the delivery of health services. He also stated that in 2002, about 9 percent of the population had access to health services, but with the increase in number of health facilities, the figure has increased by 60 percent by an hour and by 90 percent by a two-hour walk from the health faculties in 2015. The Maternal mortality rate which decreased from 1600 per 100000 live births in 2002 reached to 396 in 2015. Between the aforementioned years, the death of children under the age of five had declined from 257 to 55 per 1000 live births.
Considering these statistics, the condition of health sector after 2001 is not acceptable at all, as besides passing of one and a half decade, the Afghan health sector is located in a low-level in compare to global standards, the hospitals and laboratories of Afghanistan still cannot fulfill the demands of the people, and thus ten thousands of Afghan people travel to other countries for finding cure to their illnesses.
Increase in the Cases of Various Diseases
Afghans, from one hand, are faced the diseases that have been easily treated in other countries but are turned into mortal disease for Afghan people and, from the other hand, the cases of dangerous and deadly diseases like AIDS and Cancer are in increase. Thousands of people have lost their lives due to these diseases as they have not got ability to go to foreign countries for treatment.
Tuberculosis: Tuberculosis is an infectious treatable disease and as the MOHP says, there are 2355 Tuberculosis treatment health center in all 34 provinces of the country; however, thousands of men and women lost their lives due to Tuberculosis every year.
According to statistics of WHO, 61 thousand men and women became affected by this treatable diseases in Afghanistan every year of which 12 thousand of them lost their lives due to lack of standard health services.
HIV/ AIDS: HIV/ AIDS disease is also among the dangerous diseases that the number of affected people with it is increase in increase in Afghanistan. According to the information of MOPH, approximately 7500 persons are registered to be infected by this virus; however, they are treated well due to lack health services and thus, the number of these patients increases every year.
Cancer: Cancer is a non-infectious disease and as the MOPH says, its cases are in increase. On 12 Hamal, 1397, Afghan Minister of Public Health, Dr. Ferozuddin Feroz, in the second general assembly of anti-cancer foundation has said that 60 cancer-hit patients have been treated in the Cancer Control Center every day and there were 1300 cancer-hit patients became treated in last year only.
The statistics of WHO, however, states that nearly 20000 cases of cancer have been recognized in Afghanistan of which 15000 of them have lost their lives due to lack of facilities and health services. Though, the officials of MOPH do not talk about the exact number of people infected by cancer; however, they emphasize that the number of people infected with cancer will increased by 50 percent in the upcoming 10 years.
Problems existed in Health Sector
- Lack of Budget: Lack of sufficient budget is one of the main problems in the Afghan health sector as the Afghan Minister of Public Health, Dr. Ferozuddin Feroz, during the celebration of World Health Day on April 7, 2018, also said that the health sector needs more funding to meet this demand and added that currently there are $5 per person for health services, which is a very low compared to other countries in the world, therefore, the health sector needs more funding to improve health services in the country.
- Health Services Low Quality: After 2001, however, the Afghan health sector significantly improved when it comes to quaintly, but inversely, the low quality in this field has been a big challenge for Afghan people. Lack of professional doctors, lack of medical equipment and use of low-quality medicines are considered as main problems in Afghan healthcare centers.
- Corruption: Corruption has affected the Afghan health sector as well as other sectors which causes import of low-quality drugs into the country that are again sold by even unauthorized pharmacists who get use of fake licenses. This is the cases, particularly, in rural and remote areas. Totally, corruption has directly impacted the operations of pharmacies and private sectors as well as the observation process in the related field negatively.
- Lack of Female Doctors: The issue of female doctors is also another serious challenge in the Afghan heath sector. Among all the 34 provinces, there are still provinces existed that have not got even one female doctor. The Afghan Minister of Public Health, Dr. Ferozuddin Feroz, in the Health Council Conference, said that there is no female doctor in Nuristan, Paktika, Zabul and Uruzgan provinces. Because of this, in most cases, the mothers and/or newborns lose their lives in remote areas of the country.