What has the health situation looked like in Herat over the past couple of months, since the Taliban took over?
The healthcare system is at risk of collapsing in the whole country, while needs are huge, and this is also reflected in what we observe in Herat. Access to care was a major issue in Afghanistan well before the Taliban takeover, but today the situation has further degraded, as most of the international aid has been suspended, including the World Bank funding of the WHO basic and essential care programmes covering Herat’s province. Health facilities in the area are either closing or reduced to providing minimum services with whatever residual resources are available. We have no visibility on what is going to happen to these facilities. People are jobless and poor, they cannot afford private care, some of the humanitarian organisations previously working in the area are yet to resume their activities in full.
Herat Regional Hospital, where MSF runs an in-patient therapeutic feeding centre (ITFC), lost some of its key staff as the director and some of its most senior medical personnel, who left the country just before the fall of the city to the Taliban. The result has been a lack of governance in the hospital and many administrative challenges. Outside of the MSF-run ITFC, salaries have not been paid for five months, there are not enough medical supplies, no money to pay maintenance. Meanwhile, wards are full of patients. In a nutshell, needs are everywhere and the system is failing.