After decades of instability, drought and natural disasters, Afghanistan remains in the midst of a crushing humanitarian crisis.
Every day, millions face the grim reality of living with poor or no access to healthcare and food, putting them at risk of malnutrition and disease outbreaks. Women and girls bear a heavier burden as the rollback of their rights limits their access to healthcare, education and freedom of movement.
Yet, despite the ongoing crisis, Afghan health professionals – thousands of female workers among them – defy daily challenges to provide critical healthcare. With support from humanitarian agencies and donor partners, doctors, nurses, midwives, community health workers, vaccinators and others, the health workers bring life-saving care to millions of Afghans.
“The dedication and silent bravery of Afghanistan’s healthcare workers is truly remarkable,” said Dr Fouzia Shafique, UNICEF Afghanistan’s health lead. “Thanks to their tireless work, nearly 20 million Afghans received health and nutrition services in the first half of this year. That’s almost half of Afghanistan’s entire population.”
In tangible terms, UNICEF and its partners support Afghanistan’s health professionals by covering the operating costs of more than 2,400 healthcare facilities, supporting medical supplies, in addition to paying the salaries of approximately 27,000 healthcare professionals, of whom almost 10,000 are women.
Yet, healthcare needs in Afghanistan continue to rise. The recent alert issued by the World Health Organization underscores the urgency of ramping up investment in healthcare services provision in Afghanistan, safeguarding decades of investments made by the international community.
In the past two years, funding from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund and Global Financing Facility through the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and several other donors has enabled UNICEF, WHO and ICRC to keep the health system afloat.
But this is not a long-term solution. While humanitarian organisations play a vital role, they cannot be a substitute for a well-functioning public health system. To ensure that millions of Afghan children grow up healthy, Afghanistan urgently needs a healthcare system that meets their needs.
This photo essay was provided by UNICEF.