Only five facilities in Afghanistan continue to treat patients with Covid-19, with 33 others forced to close in recent months due to a lack of doctors, drugs, and even heat. This comes as the number of reported coronavirus cases in the economically stricken country has risen dramatically.
Due to a scarcity of fuel, personnel at Kabul’s only Covid-19 treatment hospital can only heat the building at night, even when winter temperatures drop below freezing during the day.
Patients are wrapped with thick blankets. Dr. Mohammed Gul Liwal, the organization’s director, stated that they require everything from oxygen to medical supplies.
The facility, called the Afghan Japan Communicable Disease Hospital, has 100 beds. The Covid-19 ward is almost always full as the virus rages. Before late January, the hospital was getting one or two new coronavirus patients a day. In the past two weeks, 10 to 12 new patients have been admitted daily, Liwal said.
“The situation is worsening day by day,” said Liwal, speaking inside a chilly conference room. Since the Taliban takeover almost six months ago, hospital employees have received only one month’s salary, in December.Afghanistan’s health care system, which survived for nearly two decades almost entirely on international donor funding, has been devastated since the Taliban returned to power in August following the chaotic end to the 20-year US-led intervention. Afghanistan’s economy crashed after nearly $10 billion in assets abroad were frozen and financial aid to the government was largely halted.
The health system collapse has only worsened the humanitarian crisis in the country. Roughly 90% of the population has fallen below the poverty level, and with families barely able to afford food, at least a million children are threatened with starvation.
The omicron variant is hitting Afghanistan hard, Liwal said, but he admits it is just a guess because the country is still waiting for kits that test specifically for the variant. They were supposed to arrive before the end of last month, said Public Health Ministry spokesman Dr Javid Hazhir.