Monday October 18, 2021

Afghanistan in desperate need of medicines

September 17, 2021
Afghanistan in desperate need of medicines

KARACHI: Exodus of medical consultants from Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover as well as extreme shortage of medicines due to closure of borders with Pakistan and suspension of trade with India is leading to a serious health crisis in the war-ravaged country, doctors in Kabul said on Thursday.

They said patients in Afghanistan’s different cities were in desperate need of various types of medicines, which were not available due to closure of borders with Pakistan and other neighbouring countries and urged the humanitarian organizations to arrange medicines to keep the health facilities functional. “Dozens of local and foreign medical consultants, who were working at various public and private health facilities in Kabul and other provinces of the country have fled to US, Canada, Turkey and other countries following the Taliban takeover. Those still in the country are extremely demoralized as they have not been paid salaries for last several months," Dr. Ahmed Waleed Yousufzai, a consultant hematologist working in Kabul, told The News on phone. Dr. Yousufzai got his training in hematology from National Institute of Blood Diseases (NIBD), Karachi, and is currently working as a consultant hematologist at Kabul’s largest teaching hospital, treating patients with blood cancer and other hematological disorders.

Pakistani health authorities said on Wednesday they were assessing the healthcare needs in Afghanistan in accordance with their priorities. Talking to The News, Dr. Ahmed Waleed said Kabul as well as other parts of the country were facing an extreme shortage of medicines, especially life-saving drugs as they were not coming to the country from Pakistan and India since the change of government as borders were closed and trade was suspended. “Life-saving medicines, especially those for chemotherapy and for the treatment of cancers, are not available. If somebody has any stock, they are being sold at exorbitant prices. People don't have money to buy the medicines, so the patients are in misery,” he informed.

He maintained that many other medicines including third-generation antibiotics, drugs for the treatment of metabolic disorders, neurological conditions, heart ailments, as well as those for the treatment of diseases of women and children were also not available, adding that healthcare facilities were unable to treat patients in these conditions.

However, “some essential medicines are available – thanks to international health organizations including World Health Organization, Red Cross but most of the NGOs have also left the country, so patients of chronic diseases are suffering more with each passing day,” he added.

In addition to the absence of medicines, Dr. Ahmad Waleed said many medical consultants have also fled from the country, following the Taliban takeover, and have taken refuge in the United States, Canada, several European countries and Turkey, which is another cause of concern to us and the patients. “And those who have been left in the country like me are highly demoralized as we have not been paid salaries for the last several months. Many healthcare workers including doctors, paramedics, nurses and other staff are unable to perform their duties without remuneration. Unless this issue is resolved, the health crisis in Afghanistan would deepen,” he added. This situation Dr. Ahmad said, is turning acute in Kandahar, Jalalababd, Mazar-e-Sharif and Herat.

Regarding the Covid-19 situation, he claimed that the pandemic was under control as hardly ‘5 to 10 cases’ were being reported in Kabul on daily basis, adding that both public and private hospitals had ample supplies of medical oxygen. “We have several private labs which are performing Covid-19 tests but their number is quite less as compared to neighbouring Pakistan, Iran or even India,” he added. To a query, he said the Taliban government has not yet announced any minister for health, while the previous health minister Dr. Wahid Mahrooh is continuing as the incumbent health minister.