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Taliban rule pushes Afghanistan’s health Sector to breaking point, says HRW

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KABUL – Afghanistan’s public health sector is in dire straits as a result of dwindling foreign aid and egregious Taliban oppression, warns Human Rights Watch. With women and girls bearing the brunt of the crisis, millions of Afghans are now at risk of severe malnutrition and illness due to inadequate medical care.

According to the latest findings released by the New York-based watchdog on Monday, the sharp reduction in foreign assistance, coupled with severe Taliban abuses against women and girls, has pushed the Afghan population to the brink of a healthcare catastrophe.

Since the Taliban’s takeover in August 2021, the country has witnessed a rapid decline in living standards, with millions plunging into poverty and hunger as foreign aid abruptly ceased. Sanctions imposed on the Taliban regime, along with restrictions on banking transactions and the freezing of Afghanistan’s currency reserves, have severed ties with global institutions, leaving the aid-dependent economy reeling in the absence of support from the US and NATO.

Highlighting the gravity of the situation, the World Food Program sounded the alarm in 2023, reporting record-high malnutrition rates affecting half of Afghanistan’s population, leading to widespread hunger and suffering.

“Women and girls are bearing the brunt of this healthcare crisis, especially in the face of Taliban atrocities,” the report emphasized.

The Taliban’s draconian measures, which include barring women from public life and restricting girls’ education beyond the sixth grade, have severely limited access to essential health services. Moreover, prohibitions on women’s mobility and employment have further exacerbated the situation, hindering their ability to seek medical care.

“The combination of reduced foreign aid and Taliban violations has sparked a health emergency in Afghanistan, disproportionately impacting women and girls,” remarked Fereshta Abbasi, Afghanistan researcher at Human Rights Watch, underscoring the exorbitant costs of treatment and medicine, which have rendered healthcare inaccessible to many Afghans.

Human Rights Watch conducted remote interviews with 46 individuals, including Afghan and foreign aid officials, healthcare workers, and patients, spanning 16 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces from February 2023 to January 2024. The accounts gathered shed light on the dire circumstances faced by Afghan women and underscore the urgent need for international action to address the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

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