KABUL: Afghanistan’s healthcare is dealt a devastating blow amid a rapidly shrinking economy and an acute cash squeeze, with hospital already running out of diesel fuel needed to produce oxygen for coronavirus patients.
The Afghan-Japan Communicable Disease Hospital, the only COVID-19 facility for the more than four million people in Kabul, is grappling with depleting supplies of dozens of essential drugs and the staff has been unpaid for months.
While the coronavirus situation in Afghanistan appears to have improved from a few months ago when cases reached their peak, it is now the hospital itself that needs life support.
Its predicament is a symptom of the crisis in Afghanistan’s healthcare system, which is “on the brink of collapse” and able to function only with a lifeline from aid organisations.
“We face many problems here,” said Dr. Ahmad Fatah Habibyar, the hospital’s administration logistics manager, citing three months of unpaid salaries, shortages of equipment and drugs, and a lack of food.
Some of the staff are in such financial difficulties that they are selling their household furniture to make ends meet, he said.
“Oxygen is a big issue for us because we can’t run the generators,” he said, noting the hospital’s production plant has not worked for months “because we can’t afford the diesel”.
Instead, oxygen cylinders for COVID-19 patients are bought from a local supplier. And doctors are bracing for more infections that they fear are inevitable with the Omicron coronavirus variant.