Afghanistan + 1 more

Palais media briefing notes by WHO Spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic, 20 August 2021

Health situation in Afghanistan

WHO is committed to staying in Afghanistan and delivering critical health services.

WHO calls on all parties to respect and protect civilians, health workers, patients and health facilities. During this difficult time, the well-being of all civilians — as well as the safety and security of our staff — in Afghanistan is paramount.

Continuity of health services must continue without interruption across the country, with a focus on ensuring women have access to female health workers.

At the start of 2021, fully half the population of Afghanistan – including more than 4 million women and nearly 10 million children – already needed humanitarian assistance. One third of the population was facing crisis and emergency levels of acute food insecurity and more than half of all children under 5 years of age were malnourished. The current drought is expected to elevate those figures.

Most major health facilities are functional, based on provincial level field monitoring. Health workers have been called to return to/remain at their posts, including female health staff.


  • Cases: On 19 August, 37 new cases and 7 new deaths were reported. A decrease in the number of positive cases and deaths has been observed in the past few weeks but this may be due to decrease in reporting or testing due to insecurity. Since January 2020 152,448 cases, 7054 deaths in total.
  • Vaccination: As of 15 August, 1,894,608 vaccine doses have been administered. Only 5% of Afghan population received one dose.

Vulnerable IDPs: There are almost 300,000 new IDPs in the last two months. In areas where people have recently fled, including Kabul, WHO received field reports of increase in cases of diarrhoea, malnutrition, high blood pressure, COVID-19-like symptoms and reproductive health complications.

Trauma cases: 13,897 conflict-related trauma cases received at 70 WHO-supported health facilities in July 2021 (compared to 4,057 cases in July 2020).

Attacks on health a major challenge: 26 health facilities and 31 health care workers were affected; 12 health workers were killed (January - July 2021).

Humanitarian crisis: Affects 18 million people —half of the country’s population.

All parties must swiftly address disruptions to medical supplies and equipment being shipped into and across the country.

  • Urgent need for reproductive/child health services, mental health services, mosquito nets and hygiene kits for newly displaced people.
  • Control of infectious diseases, especially at overcrowded IDP sites.
  • COVID-19 and other routine immunization, including polio vaccination, must continue without interruption to prevent secondary health emergencies.
  • Nutrition supplements are needed to address rising malnutrition among children, especially those affected by conflict. Increased need for trauma care and rehabilitation after recent conflict.

WHO has continued to deliver in the last week: On Tuesday (17 August) WHO dispatched medical supplies to Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital in Kabul. Earlier this week WHO provided medical supplies to Helmand regional hospital and to 3 health partners.

Some work that was interrupted has resumed: WHO and partners conducted an initial assessment of the health needs of recently displaced populations and deployed 3 mobile health teams. The work of these teams was on hold for about 48 hours but has restarted.

  • WHO helped to prepare the health system in anticipation of this volatility:

    • Trauma care support provided to 134 health facilities in 34 provinces since January. These hospitals reported 20,988 trauma cases in the past 2 months.
    • 500 health facilities provided with emergency and medical supplies since June.
    • Health staff in 10 referral hospitals recently trained in mass casualty management
    • WHO is also training health workers in mental health support.
    • COVID-19: WHO continues to work with partners to respond to COVID-19 with a focus on diagnosis and testing, surveillance, clinical care, infection prevention and control, vaccination, and referrals for recently displaced people in major cities.

Situation in Haiti

Hospitals in the most affected departments are overwhelmed and requiring emergency support and medicines.

Urgent needs include general and specialized medical personnel, medicines and medical supplies, including anesthetic drugs, orthopedic external fixators, among others, as well as logistical support for the delivery of supplies and transfer of patients.

Earthquakes and heavy rains increase risk of outbreaks, especially in densely populated areas prone to waterborne and communicable diseases and with the displacement of populations, such as cholera, dengue, measles, meningitis, COVID-19 and other acute respiratory infections.

PAHO is supporting coordination of health response alongside Haiti’s Ministry of Health, UN agencies.

They have delivered essential medicines and other medical and surgical supplies to affected health facilities.

PAHO is coordinating 1 emergency medical team on the ground and 15 EMTs from various countries are also on standby, ready to be deployed depending on the needs of the MoH.

Latest sitrep:

Global analysis of trends in hypertension prevalence and treatment and new WHO guideline on hypertension treatment – 25 August

More than 700 million people are living with untreated hypertension, according to the first comprehensive global analysis of trends in hypertension prevalence, detection, treatment and control, led by Imperial College London and the World Health Organization, to be published next week in The Lancet.

The study, covering the period 1990-2019, includes data from 184 countries, covering 99% of the global population. It provides data by country and highlights where the most progress has been made.

In parallel, WHO will launch a guideline on the pharmacological treatment of hypertension in adults. The new guideline, the first in 20 years, provides new recommendations to help countries in their efforts to improve the management of hypertension. Specifically, it provides guidance on the initiation of treatment, recommendations on intervals for follow up, target blood pressure to be achieved for control, and the cadre of health-care workers who may initiate treatment.

Details on the press briefing timing and embargoed material will be communicated later today or early Monday morning.