Afghanistan maternal, child health at risk if world does not step up support: ICRC

Afghanistan maternal, child health at risk if world does not step up support: ICRC

Maternal and children’s health will remain at risk in Afghanistan if the international community does not step up to support the country’s “flailing public infrastructure,” the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement on Thursday.

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“The high maternal mortality rate in Afghanistan makes the specialized health services in ICRC-supported hospitals, especially on maternal health issues and prenatal/neonatal care, even more important for pregnant women and newborns,” said ICRC President Peter Maurer, ahead of the high-level pledging event on supporting the humanitarian response in Afghanistan 2022.

“Our priority remains supporting the health system in Afghanistan, but the international community must step up its support as humanitarian organizations cannot effectively replace a functioning public sector, nor can they fully meet the needs of the Afghan population,” he added.

The banking and liquidity crisis in Afghanistan cuts public health infrastructure off from the funding needed to pay for staff salaries, running costs, medicines and fuel to run ambulances, the statement explained, adding that in order to bridge this need, the ICRC launched financial and technical support to 33 hospitals to ensure access to medical care free of charge in November 2021.

An Afghan woman reacts at the Indira Gandhi Children’s hospital after explosions at a military hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan November 2, 2021. Indira Gandhi Children’s hospital was not attacked. (File photo: Reuters)

The international aid organization announced a budget extension of around $57 million, raising the overall operational budget in Afghanistan to approximately $216 million.

The Hospital Resilience Project, which was initially established to support 18 hospitals for six months, has since been scaled up to support 33 Afghan hospitals in total, including eight teaching hospitals which certify thousands of health professionals – male and female – each year.

The project now pays the salaries of nearly 10,000 health-care staff, the cost of medicines and hospital running costs.

According to the organization, the total budget will be used to extend support to hospitals and healthcare staff until the end of the year, enabling 750,000 consultations per month and expanding its protection and assistance work in places of detention, including the provision of food for up to 10,000 detainees and helping prison authorities with the required support needed to manage the food supply chain and nutrition.

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