KABUL: A massive measles outbreak in Afghanistan threatens to bring the country’s weak health system to its knees while putting an unsustainable burden on humanitarian agencies to fill the gaps, according to aid workers.
Save the Children reports a spike of almost 300 percent in the number of patients diagnosed with measles in Kandahar only. “One of our mobile health teams that’s been running for three or four years in Kandahar told us they’d had [an] almost 200% or 300% increase in the number of patients in the last eight months,” according to Athena Rayburn, director of advocacy, communications, campaigns, and media at Save the Children.
Save the Children has had to double its mobile health teams from almost 40 to 80 in order to reach those in more remote areas, while Dr. Hamayoun Hemat, deputy medical coordinator in Afghanistan for Médecins Sans Frontières, said MSF facilities are overwhelmed with patients suffering from measles and malnutrition.
Measles cases have been rising sharply since July 2021. From the beginning of January until 14 May this year, 46,632 cases were reported, including 270 deaths – compared with 156 confirmed deaths in all of 2021.