Horrifying Conditions for Healthcare Workers in Afghanistan: 80% of Violence Attributed to the Taliban – Hasht-e Subh Daily

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The Institute for Conflict Management has published a shocking report on the condition of healthcare workers under the Taliban regime. The report documents 109 incidents of violence against healthcare workers in 2023, with 80 percent of these incidents perpetrated by Taliban fighters. According to the report, 65 healthcare workers were detained and interrogated by Taliban forces in 38 incidents in 2023. The report also states that 16 healthcare workers and doctors were killed in 10 incidents by June this year. The institute noted the death of a doctor due to brutal Taliban torture in Badakhshan province, highlighting that Afghanistan’s healthcare system is on the brink of collapse as the Taliban prioritize spending on their intelligence and security sectors.

The report, titled “Afghanistan: Violence Against Health Care in Conflict 2023,” was released on June 24, 2024, by the Institute for Conflict Management, revealing the dire situation of healthcare workers under the Taliban. The report emphasizes that 80 percent of the violence against healthcare workers and doctors in Afghanistan was committed by the Taliban’s “intelligence and police” forces. It documents 109 incidents of violence against healthcare workers in 2023, up from 87 incidents in 2022.

The institute reported that at least 65 healthcare workers were detained and interrogated by Taliban fighters in 38 incidents in 2023, compared to 33 incidents in 2022, showing a doubling of violence against healthcare workers under the Taliban regime. The violent incidents occurred in 28 provinces, with the highest numbers recorded in Zabul and Balkh provinces. Violent behavior against healthcare workers was also reported in Herat and Kabul provinces.

The findings indicate that since the inception of the Taliban control of Afghanistan until the end of June this year, 16 healthcare workers and doctors were killed in 10 incidents. The report attributes these incidents to the Taliban and unknown individuals who have assaulted healthcare workers, shut down healthcare facilities, and detained and harassed doctors and healthcare providers.

The report states that on June 10, 2024, the Taliban closed the Baran Institute of Health Science in Bamyan province and detained its director due to anti-Taliban statements. It also highlights the death of Dr. Sardar from brutal Taliban torture in Badakhshan province.

The institute also mentioned the detention and mistreatment of Nabila Rahimi, a human rights activist, and employee of the UNDP, and the killing of Abdul Ghaffar Hamdard, head of the Development Department of Kabul Medical University, by unknown individuals, as severe acts of violence against healthcare workers.

The report reveals that Taliban fighters forcibly removed a female doctor from her workplace in Maymana City, Faryab province, and severely beat a female nurse in Mazar-i-Sharif, Balkh province, leaving her seriously injured. Additionally, on May 30, 2023, Taliban fighters raided a private healthcare center in Qalat City, Zabul province, destroying their equipment.

The Institute for Conflict Management pointed out the severe health crisis in Afghanistan, mentioning the replacement of Noor Jallal, former Deputy Minister of Interior, with Qalandar Ebad as Minister of Public Health. It added that Afghanistan’s healthcare system is on the verge of collapse as the Taliban divert most state resources to their security and intelligence apparatus.

The report notes that the Taliban Ministry of Defense has a budget exceeding $616 million, constituting 17.38 percent of the regime’s total budget, while the Ministry of Public Health’s budget is $80 million, accounting for 2.25 percent.

Nonprofit organizations and international donors have been banned from hiring female employees, and financial restrictions have limited aid organizations’ access. Vital community services, such as rural clinics and nutrition centers, have also been shut down.

Previously, the United Nations reported that 17.9 million people in Afghanistan require health assistance, with 9.5 million having limited or no access to health facilities.

The report states that Afghanistan and Pakistan are the only two countries in the world where polio has not been eradicated. According to the institute, recent estimates of the healthcare situation under the Taliban show there are 0.33 doctors per 1,000 people, compared to 20 per 1,000 in high-income countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) previously stated that there should be 2.5 doctors per 1,000 people. The institute described the situation as catastrophic, noting that Afghanistan struggles with the worst health outcomes globally, including acute malnutrition, stunting, and high child and maternal mortality rates.

One doctor, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Hasht-e Subh Daily that the Taliban’s strict policies against women have significantly impacted the healthcare system. According to the doctor, under Taliban-imposed restrictions, male doctors are not allowed to examine women without a male guardian, and women without a guardian are not allowed to enter healthcare facilities. The doctor emphasized that healthcare workers’ salaries have decreased since the Taliban’s takeover, and the Taliban’s interactions with healthcare workers are often harsh and inhumane, leading to disillusionment and despair among doctors and other health workers—anyone who protests faces torture and detention.

The doctor added that healthcare facilities face severe shortages of medicine and medical equipment, and due to economic hardship, more people are seeking medical help, while a severe shortage of female specialists has doubled the health problems in Afghanistan. These challenges indirectly increase maternal and infant mortality, and if the situation continues, the healthcare system will face a severe decline.

WHO reported that Afghanistan has the highest maternal mortality rate in Asia, with 638 deaths per 100,000 live births. Since the beginning of 2024, over 1,000 children under five in Afghanistan have died from pneumonia, accounting for 88 percent of all respiratory infection-related child deaths.

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported on March 5, 2024, that 10 percent of Afghan children under five suffer from malnutrition and 45 percent are stunted. According to the gender profile published by UN Women in 2024, only 10 percent of women can meet their basic health needs, and nearly 24,000 women give birth each month in remote areas of Afghanistan.

The institute stated that the healthcare system in Afghanistan under Taliban rule faces a severe crisis, with citizens’ access to healthcare services drastically reduced. Most people, due to increasing poverty and continuous unemployment, cannot visit healthcare centers and endure physical and mental health issues.

Currently, 428 fixed and mobile health centers in Afghanistan have been forced to close due to financial constraints, and nearly 18 million people, about 40 percent of the population, have limited access to healthcare.

Dr. Hanan Balkhi, WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Regional Director, said in March 2024: “Fifty percent of Afghanistan’s population suffers from mental health issues, affecting productivity and quality of life. These individuals are vulnerable to mental health disorders and substance abuse.”

The report highlights the urgent need for female doctors in Afghanistan, as they are often the sole healthcare providers for women and children. The institute stated that the Taliban have banned 3,000 women who graduated from medical schools from taking specialty exams, depriving Afghanistan of a crucial resource.

The institute concluded that the Taliban regime has failed to establish the necessary regulatory frameworks to advance sustainable development goals. The group’s inability to implement policies ensuring equitable access to healthcare exacerbates health disparities and hinders progress toward sustainable development.

The report warns that Afghanistan’s healthcare situation is deteriorating under the Taliban regime, with the Taliban’s indifference to public welfare, including health needs, being catastrophic for a country lacking the necessary resources and facilities to maintain even minimal healthcare services.

You can read the Persian version of this daily report here:

وضعیت وحشت‌ناک کارکنان صحی در افغانستان؛ ۸۰ درصد خشونت‌ها از سوی طالبان صورت می‌گیرد | روزنامه ۸صبح

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