Law students and lawyers in Afghanistan are filing reports with JURIST on the situation there after the Taliban takeover. Here, a Staff Correspondent for JURIST in Kabul discusses the impact of the Afghan financial and economic crisis on the nation’s health centers and the inability of ordinary citizens to meet basic needs. For privacy and security reasons, we are withholding our Correspondent’s name. The text has only been lightly edited to respect the author’s voice.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has warned that 90 percent of Afghanistan’s health clinics are in danger of shutting down, “depriving millions of basic care, threatening the COVID-19 response, and creating a major risk of disease outbreaks, malnutrition and preventable deaths.”
According to the IRC, the previous government was heavily reliant on foreign aid to pay civil servant salaries, but after the Taliban’s takeover and the subsequent blocking of this aid, many challenges have propped up. The IRC stated that the international community’s freezing of Afghanistan Central Bank’s assets has had a severe adverse financial impact on the nation, which in turn is now causing a healthcare crisis. Afghan citizens are increasingly unable to meet their basic needs and the country’s economy and public services are on the verge of collapsing.
The IRC highlighted that approximately 75 percent of the previous government’s public spending came from foreign sources and that about 30 million Afghan residents were dependent on health services through a program managed by the World Bank. The financial crisis and lack of foreign funding is now expected to shut this program down and deprive millions from much needed health services, just as the fourth wave of COVID-19 hits Afghanistan along with rising threats of malnutrition and heart disease.
The IRC has also warned that food insecurity in Afghanistan is likely to worsen in 2022 due to shortages, rapidly rising prices and persistent droughts, which in turn may cause more Afghans to flee. A study conducted in several provinces in 2021 identified food shortages as the primary cause of internal displacement. The IRC further estimates that “55% of Afghans will face acute food insecurity, including nearly nine million people at emergency levels” throughout early 2022——just a step away from famine conditions.
This development comes less than two months after we reported the shutting down of more than 3,000 public health centers due to budget constraints, forcing people to travel from districts to provincial centers for treatments, sometimes in neighboring provinces.
As if this was not bad enough, the IRC stressed that “Humanitarian organizations operating in Afghanistan are not spared from the economic crisis” and that it is essential that these organizations have the necessary cash to continue their work and to pay staff and suppliers. These warnings are being complemented by the UN, which estimates that 97 percent of Afghans could plunge into poverty by mid 2022.