KABUL – The International Committee of the Red Cross has announced its decision to terminate financial support for hospitals in Afghanistan. This decision comes as the ICRC’s program in the country is set to be gradually phased out by the end of August.
“ICRC lacks both the mandate and the necessary resources to sustain the public healthcare sector over the long term,” Diogo Alcantara, the spokesperson for ICRC in Afghanistan, told Reuters.
The ICRC had launched the Hospital Resilience Project in November 2021, shortly after the Taliban gained control of Afghanistan in August of the same year. The aim of this initiative was to provide vital financial aid to 33 hospitals throughout the region, in order to prevent the complete collapse of Afghanistan’s healthcare system. Amnesty International highlighted the adverse impact of the Taliban’s control on the healthcare system, leading to limited resources and widespread difficulty in accessing medical services.
Diogo Alcantara emphasized that the ICRC’s initial decision to intervene was driven by the imperative to prevent the healthcare system from crumbling under immense financial pressures. However, in a recent development, the ICRC’s governing board agreed to implement cost-cutting measures, leading to a revised annual budget of 2.4 billion CHF. Consequently, the organization’s presence in Afghanistan will be scaled down. It is anticipated that the administration led by the Taliban will assume responsibility for healthcare services in the near future. The ICRC remains committed to providing support to the region as deemed necessary.
The decline in international humanitarian aid to Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover has had severe repercussions, pushing the country into a state of poverty. The situation has been further exacerbated by the collapse of the economy in August 2021, triggered by the removal of foreign assets from the Central Bank of Afghanistan.
Unfortunately, the challenges in the region persist. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reports that a staggering 97 percent of Afghans are currently living in poverty. An analysis conducted by Human Rights Watch reveals that two-thirds of the nation’s population is grappling with food insecurity, with women and girls being particularly vulnerable.