Logistics and humanitarian airbridge: In collaboration with the Government of Pakistan, on 30 August, 12.5 metric tonnes of urgent medical supplies were flown from WHO’s warehouse in the International Humanitarian City, Dubai to Mazar-i-Sharif airport due to ongoing disruptions at Kabul airport. The supplies brought in will help to partially replenish stocks of health facilities in Afghanistan. This was the first medical shipment to land in Afghanistan since 15 August and it is the first of three flights planned with Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to fill ongoing shortage in medicines and medical supplies in Afghanistan. WHO is exploring more options to get further shipments into the country until a reliable humanitarian airbridge to scale-up collective humanitarian effort is established.
Sehatmandi suspension: Funding cuts and freeze from donors is forcing many NGOs to scale down operations or close health facilities supported under the Sehatmandi project, which is the main initiative providing the basic package of health services (BPHS) in approximately 3,000 health facilities across Afghanistan. This will leave millions of Afghans without primary and secondary health care. The range of services that will be impacted include immunization for children, antenatal care, postnatal care and child delivery for pregnant women, malnutrition care, COVID-19 treatment centers and other essential health services, which will disproportionately affect women, children, and the elderly. It is estimated that the closure of every 50 health facilities could lead to the death of 5 more women and 58 more children under 5 years of age, every day. WHO is exploring options for mitigating the impact of the scale-back in Sehatmandi activities.
COVID-19: Afghanistan has reported 153,220 COVID-19 cases and 7,118 deaths as of 30 August 2021 with a PCR positivity rate of around 18%. Last week, 556 new cases of COVID-19 and 40 new deaths were reported. Though this is a 27% increase in cases compared to the week before, overall, the number of cases has continued to decline in the past few weeks. This could be linked to underreporting of cases and a significant decline in testing. A 22% decrease in testing was reported last week compared to the week before. Some laboratories have stopped conducting PCR tests due to shortage of testing kits. No significant increase in admissions to COVID-19 isolation centers has been reported. Decisions linked to the scale-up of vaccination, surveillance and testing, and expediting the installation of oxygen plants in hospitals, are expected to remain on hold until a new government is in place.
Food insecurity and malnutrition: Prior to the developments in the recent months, approximately 12.2 million people were projected to experience food insecurity and half of all children in Afghanistan were expected to be severely malnourished in 2021. Of the 13 provinces highly affected by drought, nine far exceed the WHO emergency threshold of Global Acute Malnutrition (15 percent), with some districts reporting figures as high as 35 percent. Stunting already stands at a staggering 36 percent in the country. COVID-19, food price hikes and loss of more than 40% of the country’s crops due to this year’s drought has intensified the food insecurity and malnutrition crisis. The current situation will further worsen access to food. WHO is supporting 70 severe acute malnutrition stabilization centres across the country and providing kits to treat severe cases of malnutrition among children.
Trauma: Mass causality incidents remain a major concern as they could further overwhelm health facilities and rapidly deplete health supply stocks at hospitals. WHO has scaled up its trauma management support across 130 health facilities through the provision of training to health facility staff, mass causality management planning and capacity building and provision of trauma management supplies and essential medicines. WHO is also supporting 67 blood banks across the country through renovations, capacity building of technicians and provision of supply and equipment.