COVID-19 rates are soaring in Afghanistan as healthcare facilities collapse, says health minister

·3 min read
A physically disabled girl walks with a walker at the physically disabled center of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Herat, Afghanistan on September 02, 2021. The center is the only disability support center in Afghanistan.
A physically disabled girl walks with a walker at the physically disabled center of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Herat, Afghanistan on September 02, 2021. The center is the only disability support center in Afghanistan. (Photo by Stringer/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
  • Afghanistan's acting health minister told Insider that 1/3 of the tests are coming back positive.

  • Vaccination and testing rates are dropping.

  • Healthcare facilities are on the verge of collapse, with clinics running out of oxygen.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

The Afghan healthcare system is on the verge of collapse. To make matters worse, Afghanistan's acting health minister has told Insider that roughly one-third of all COVID-19 tests carried out on September 7 were positive.

The country - which is struggling to get COVID-19 PCR tests - is facing the potential of a surge of the virus alongside the political and economic turmoil resulting from the Taliban takeover.

Whilst many other politicians fled the country, Dr. Wahid Majrooh, the acting health minister since 2015, remained at his post when Kabul fell. He is Afghanistan's chief of public health and wants to help steer the health system through the transition to Taliban rule.

Group of doctors in scrubs look at a hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan
June 2020: Afghanistan's Acting Minister of Public Health Wahid Majrooh (2nd left) checks medical equipment at a COVID-19 hospital in Kabul (Photo by Sayed Mominzadah/Xinhua via Getty Images)

Dr. Majrooh - still in Kabul with his family - sounds weary as he describes a crumbling health care system to Insider.

"Yesterday, we tested 299 samples, and 101 were positive. This is a huge concern for me."

And the most important part for COVID-19 management is governance and surveillance, being able to track data before cases get to a level that can not be managed. We have lost that capacity."

Dr. Majrooh previously told Insider that PCR tests and the ability to track and trace COVID-19 were among the many medical interventions lost in Afghanistan after the American pullout and the rise of the Taliban - and the effects are now showing, he said.

A wounded patient lays in the recovery unit at Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital. in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021
A wounded patient lays in the recovery unit at Wazir Akbar Khan Hospital. in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 26, 2021 MARCUS YAM / LOS ANGELES TIMES via Getty Images

"COVID-19 vaccination is declining because the primary healthcare facilities are the destinations for vaccine delivery, which are now in the worst possible situation when it comes to logistics," said Dr. Majrooh.

"Patients don't have food. The facilities don't have fuel - don't have oxygen," Dr. Majrooh told Insider.

Rick Brennan, the UN health agency's regional emergency director, has stated roughly 90% of health facilities across the country might have to close imminently, reported Reuters.

Major international bodies have pulled funding from Afghanistan's healthcare system after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. The World Bank announced that it would halt aid to Afghanistan.

"When we hear messages from the World Bank or the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund donors - whether they say that they have put our funds on hold, or they've frozen them - what that means to me is 3700 health facilities will collapse. That the health of 35 million people will collapse," Dr. Majrooh previously told Insider.

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