Afghanistan needs security to rebuild its health services

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: (Published 09 February 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:318
  1. Tessa Richards,
  2. Ruth Little
  1. BMJ

    Large scale emergency, reconstruction, and development aid is needed to rebuild Afghanistan's devastated infrastructure. All sectors, not least the health sector, need massive external support and they need it now, Kieran Prendergast, undersecretary of political affairs at the United Nations, told a meeting of the World Economic Forum in New York last week.

    Afghanistan's health statistics are among the worst in the world. Large numbers of people are dying from preventable diseases, and the World Health Organization estimates that six million people have little or no access to medical care. Only about 1 in 4 people has access to clean water.

    Hospitals and health centres are denuded of staff, equipment, power, and medicines. For a population of about 23 million people there are only about 17500 health professionals. A quarter of the doctors are in Kabul, where only 7% of the population live. By World Health Organization standards a minimum of 63000 health workers are needed to provide a basic essential service.

    The Afghan government lacks the money to pay even basic costs and salaries, and re-establishing a viable health system will take …

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