26 November 2001
SUCCESS OF AFGHANISTAN RECONSTRUCTION WILL BE MEASURED IN LIVES SAVED AND IMPROVED
WHO Urges Generous Support for Health
Health sector reconstruction in Afghanistan must be guided by a strong international commitment to save and improve lives, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated today. It also called for generous investment in health, at this crucial moment, as a key to future stability and socio-economic development in the country.
"Whether in the emergency or the post-conflict reconstruction phase, the most important thing is to save and improve lives in Afghanistan. This is our number one goal," declared Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of WHO.
"The total health needs of the Afghan people will become clear, once the fighting tapers off. Indications are that much needs to be done in this country whose long-lasting humanitarian crisis has led to a great accumulation of health needs. The international community must now seize what is an excellent opportunity to turn the health situation around in Afghanistan," she added.
From 27-29 November, Dr Mohamed Jama, WHO’s Regional Co-ordinator for the crisis in Afghanistan will chair the health sector working group, which is part of a meeting for the preparation of the Afghanistan reconstruction plan. The meeting is jointly organized by the United Nations, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, and will take place in Islamabad.
WHO experts working on the Afghanistan crisis have indicated that health work – in order to save and improve lives – needs to make an impact in the following five areas:
Healthcare facilities must be completely restored to ensure the provision of essential services. Medicines, vaccines, medical equipment and supplies – even fuel – are required so health workers can deliver the services expected of them.
Health posts need to be established in chronically under-served areas and outreach teams need to be increased to reach the far corners of Afghanistan. There is a critical shortage of health care workers at every level. More doctors, of every speciality, nurses, midwives, laboratory and x-ray technicians, pharmacists, dentists and physiotherapists need to be trained.
Focusing on primary health care and making it available to the entire population is the key to effective and efficient health services which will save and improve lives. Community-based initiatives to reduce poverty need to be strengthened and expanded at the same time as institutional capacity building to rehabilitate Afghanistan.
WHO has almost 200 experienced local and international staff working in Afghanistan in charge of running a number of programmes across the entire spectrum of public health activities, from immunizations to advanced education for health. Many of these employees continued their activities during the crisis: co-ordinating National Immunization Days for polio, maintaining surveillance sentinel sites, distributing essential drugs and training health workers in first aid.
"Significant financial and technical resources are required more than ever before," warned Dr Hussein A. Gezairy, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean. "I truly hope the international community will rise to this occasion to prevent a health catastrophe in a highly vulnerable population whose suffering continues to be immense," he said.
"Aside from relieving the suffering, rebuilding the health sector is absolutely crucial for the future stability and socio-economic development of Afghanistan," Dr Brundtland pointed out. "Investing in health, among other social services, is investing in peace and prosperity."
For further information please contact: Melinda Henry, Office of the Spokesperson, WHO, Geneva. Tel: (+41 22) 791 2535; Fax: (+41 22) 791 4858; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. All WHO Press Releases; Fact Sheets and Features as well as other WHO information on this subject can be obtained on Internet on the WHO home page: http://www.who.int