Afghan population increasingly vulnerable to malnutrition, illness: Human Rights Watch

The Human Rights Watch issued a stark report on the health of the Afghan population Monday, warning that the lack of foreign assistance to the country has resulted in more malnutrition and illnesses among Afghans.

The new report said the reduction in foreign assistance to public health in Afghanistan and the Taliban’s abuses against women and girls have “jeopardized the right to health for millions of Afghans.” Since the Taliban takeover in 2021, foreign aid for Afghanistan dried up and led to many suffering from poverty and hunger, The Associated Press noted.

“The loss of foreign development aid and Taliban rights violations have caused a catastrophic health crisis in Afghanistan that is disproportionately harming women and girls,” Fereshta Abbasi, Afghanistan researcher at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

“The Taliban have severely obstructed women from providing or accessing health care, while the cost of treatment and medicine has put care out of reach for many Afghans,” Abbasi added.

The report noted that the World Food Program said last year that Afghanistan’s malnutrition rates reached a record high, with about half of the population enduring severe hunger throughout the year.

The report also noted that there was a severe reduction in funds for hospitals in Afghanistan. The International Committee of the Red Cross provided support for 33 area hospitals in the two years since the Taliban takeover, but ended its program last year when it began to experience its own funding struggles.

The report said humanitarian aid organizations told Human Rights Watch they plan to close hospitals and reduce operations. Workers with the organizations also told the New York-based watchdog they are running low on medical supplies.

“All donors have been cutting aid… . We closed some mobile teams because donors cut aid. We may need to close 10 major hospitals in the next six months,” an official with an international aid organization told Human Rights Watch.

The report noted the lack of access to enough food, water and medical supplies as led to increased illness.

“Inadequate access to food, clean water, and healthcare services has also led to a rise in preventable diseases. This has placed a strain on an already struggling health system as it grapples with an increased demand, including greater need for specialized care for people with acute forms of malnutrition,” the report stated.

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