Donor abandonment after Taliban puts hundreds of Afghan health centers at risk – World Peace Organization
September 6e, a World Health Organization official said hundreds of medical facilities in Afghanistan were at risk of imminent closure. In an interview with Reuters, regional emergency director Rick Brennan said Western donors who funded these medical facilities had regulations prohibiting them from dealing with the Taliban government. Brennan provided no further details, but predicted that up to 90% of Afghanistan’s 2,300 hospitals would close within a week of announcing the closure.
Afghanistan faces “an imminent humanitarian catastrophe”, warned WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. He and WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, Ahmed Al-Mandhari, issued a joint statement on the exponentially deepening crisis in Afghanistan, observing: “[C]uts in donor support to [Sehatmandi, Afghanistan’s] the biggest health project… has left thousands of health facilities without funding for medical supplies and salaries ”for staff. Famine is rampant; a United Nations Food Program report found that only 5% of Afghan households have enough food for their daily consumption. In addition, the WHO has reported that less than one in five facilities in Sehatmandi is currently open.
Tedros noted that without donor funding, many health facilities “have now scaled back their operations or closed their doors, forcing health providers to make decisions about who to save and who to let die.” Rick Brennan also told Reuters that the WHO had attempted to provide equipment and funding to 500 health centers. Although the organization liaised with Qatar to deliver medical supplies by air, chaos at Kabul airport made it difficult to get goods to Afghanistan.
September 13e, the UN held an emergency financial appeal meeting to raise humanitarian aid funds for Afghanistan and raised more than $ 1 billion. Still, according to the US News and World Report, officials have indicated that future aid could be affected by how the Taliban governs. These sentiments are likely intended to communicate that the Taliban’s past and ongoing human rights violations are unacceptable. Nonetheless, UN chief António Guterres implored Western donors to continue dialogue with the Taliban. World leaders should remain focused on helping millions of innocent civilians suffering starvation and improving conditions in health facilities so that providers are not forced to decide “who to save and who to let die.”
The Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, when US forces usurped them in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Before their overthrow, the Taliban practiced a strict interpretation of Sharia, Islamic religious law. The group banned women from going to work or school, clamped down on dissent, and publicly flogged those who violated their moral code. Many civilians fear a return to these conditions. Because of the atrocities committed by the Taliban, even after losing power, world leaders are understandably reluctant to recognize their authority. About two dozen Afghan diplomats have also called for those powers to continue not to do so, recognizing that the Taliban “would validate their repressive regime.”
Tedros’ recommendation to continue dialogue with the Taliban is pragmatic. Western donors should consider that communicating with the Taliban does not necessarily imply recognition of their authority or acceptance of their human rights violations. The Taliban, in turn, must accept that to gain international recognition, their practices will have to be changed. Substantial compromise on the part of both sides is required to successfully deliver food and health care to the millions of people across Afghanistan who lack such necessities.