Unstable Healthcare System and Escalating Crisis: The Taliban Are an Obstacle to Health Services

Hasht-e-Subh The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a report stating that restrictions imposed by the Taliban have hindered thousands of women from accessing healthcare, education, and employment. According to the report, 24 mothers and 167 infants die daily from preventable diseases.

The report indicates that 17.9 million people require health assistance, while 9.5 million have limited or no access to healthcare facilities. Afghanistan is one of the two countries in the world where polio is still present. The healthcare system in Afghanistan has faced a severe crisis under Taliban rule. Citizens’ access to healthcare services has drastically decreased, and the majority of people, due to increasing poverty and persistent unemployment, cannot visit healthcare centers, enduring physical ailments along with mental distress.

The WHO’s recent report highlights that due to Taliban-imposed restrictions, access to healthcare has significantly declined. These restrictions have prevented thousands of women from accessing healthcare, education, and employment.

The report mentions that 24 mothers and 167 infants die daily from preventable diseases in Afghanistan. It also notes that 17.9 million people urgently need healthcare assistance, with at least 9.5 million others having limited or no access to healthcare facilities.

WHO has warned that the number of people needing healthcare assistance in Afghanistan will rise to 23.7 million in 2024. The organization has added that 80% of Afghanistan’s residents live on less than one dollar a day.

The WHO report emphasizes that economic instability in Afghanistan has led to a severe shortage of healthcare workers relative to the number of patients. There are only 10 healthcare workers per 10,000 people in Afghanistan, whereas this figure should be 44.

The report states: “This prolonged humanitarian crisis has been overshadowed by ongoing geopolitical considerations, leading to decreased support from international partners.” Currently, 310 healthcare centers, including hospitals, across Afghanistan are facing severe budget shortages.

Due to severe budget shortages, a total of 428 fixed and mobile healthcare centers were forced to shut down between January and December 2023, which has had a detrimental impact on access to healthcare for over three million people, including more than 600,000 children under five and over 240,000 pregnant women.

The report underscores that $423 million is needed for the years 2024 and 2025. Afghanistan continues to grapple with a persistent humanitarian crisis, with its citizens enduring numerous challenges and an unstable healthcare system. According to the WHO, the people of Afghanistan face daily shortages of food and malnutrition.

WHO has described the health situation in Afghanistan as complex. The organization added that communicable and non-communicable diseases, the spread of infectious diseases, severe drought, and other natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes, coupled with the restrictions imposed on women, have exacerbated the crisis.

Previously, WHO has repeatedly stated that Afghanistan’s healthcare system suffers from severe budget shortages, placing millions at high risk of malnutrition due to poverty.

Last year, Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesperson for the United Nations, stated that every two hours, a mother dies during childbirth in Afghanistan. According to statistics provided at the time by the United Nations, since 2017, 638 women have died annually in Afghanistan per 100,000 births.


Meanwhile, some health experts claim that the maternal mortality rate in Afghanistan is much higher than the figures provided by WHO. They state that UN reports usually refer to past data, and the current situation is more severe and critical than the reported numbers.

Jan Mohammad (pseudonym), currently working in the healthcare sector in Kabul, states that the Taliban cannot manage the health crisis. He says the entire healthcare system is controlled by “mullahs and Taliban fighters,” with specialists being marginalized and even eliminated.

This healthcare expert explains that maternal and infant mortality have economic, social, civil, and cultural dimensions. According to him, many families in Afghanistan prevent pregnant women from going to healthcare centers due to harmful traditions and “strange beliefs.” As a result, many women die due to the lack of medicine and treatment. He emphasizes that the situation of women in Afghanistan is worse than reported.

Shamail (pseudonym), a specialist at a Taliban-run state hospital, asserts that the group’s views on reproduction and raising healthy children contradict all indicators of development and a healthy society. According to him, the Taliban do not believe in providing healthcare services to mothers and infants, thinking that a woman is obligated to give birth without considering the economic and social aspects.

This obstetrician adds, “In addition to the Taliban’s misunderstanding of maternal health, pregnant women lack access to primary healthcare. Poverty and hunger lead to inadequate nutrition, and cultural and economic problems further increase mortality rates.”

Meanwhile, the Taliban have closed a health institute because students “whistled” during a speech by Abdullah Sarhadi, the group’s governor in Bamyan province.

A video circulating on social media shows the Taliban morality police, along with intelligence agents, sealing the doors of the Baran Institute of Health Sciences.

Sources confirmed to the Hasht-e Subh Daily that the Taliban governor in Bamyan attended the graduation ceremony of this institute and gave a speech, during which some students clapped and whistled in encouragement.

The United Nations describes the increase in maternal mortality in Afghanistan as shocking. Over the past two years, the Taliban have held medical entrance exams at public and private universities without the participation of female students. In addition to banning women from taking the Exit Exam, the Taliban have also prevented them from participating in specialization programs.

It is worth noting that the Taliban’s restrictions on women, their inability to provide healthcare services, the lack of healthcare centers, and the shortage of medicine and medical equipment, along with ongoing droughts and rising poverty and hunger, have exacerbated the health crisis in the country.