According to Human Rights Watch, the healthcare system in Afghanistan has suffered greatly due to a significant decrease in international aid and the mistreatment of women and girls by the Taliban. This has put the healthcare rights of millions of Afghans at risk.
According to a recent report from the New York-based watchdog, the lack of proper medical care has resulted in increased vulnerability to severe malnutrition and illness among the Afghan population.
The sudden rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan in August 2021 resulted in millions of people falling into poverty and facing hunger as foreign aid abruptly ceased. Restrictions on the Taliban government, a suspension of bank transactions, and the freezing of Afghanistan’s currency reserves have restricted access to international organizations and the external funds that previously sustained the aid-reliant economy prior to the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops.
In 2023, the World Food Program issued a warning that Afghanistan was experiencing unprecedented levels of malnutrition, with half of the population facing severe hunger for the entire year.
According to the report, the healthcare crisis has had a greater impact on women and girls, largely due to the mistreatment of the Taliban.
After seizing control, the Taliban implemented strict policies that restrict women’s participation in public spheres and employment, and also prohibit girls from attending school past the sixth grade.
According to a report by HRW, the Taliban’s limitations on women’s mobility and employment have significantly hindered their ability to seek healthcare services. Furthermore, their prohibition on education has effectively prevented the training of potential female healthcare workers in the nation.
According to Fereshta Abbasi, a researcher for Human Rights Watch in Afghanistan, the combination of reduced foreign aid and violations of rights by the Taliban has led to a severe health crisis in the country, with a particularly negative impact on women and girls. The report states that this has been a catastrophic situation.
She mentioned that the expense of medical care and medication has made it unaffordable for numerous individuals in Afghanistan.
Between February 2023 and January 2024, HRW conducted remote interviews with a total of 46 individuals, including Afghan and foreign aid officials, healthcare workers, and individuals seeking healthcare. Out of these interviewees, 15 were Afghans who had sought healthcare, with 12 being women and three being men. Additionally, the group also spoke with 18 Afghan healthcare officials, including 10 women and eight men.
The report was not able to obtain a comment from the Taliban government spokespersons at this time.
Although Afghans who are impoverished have long encountered challenges in accessing healthcare due to its expenses, there has been a growing population that is now also struggling to afford food and thus cannot afford medication or transportation to access healthcare services.
A 54-year-old man who is suffering from a kidney infection shared with HRW that ever since the Taliban assumed control, the cost of his medication has almost doubled. He expressed that this increase is unaffordable for individuals who are unemployed.
In September, an unnamed representative from the organization Mercy Corps relayed to HRW that the humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan are struggling to keep up with the deteriorating conditions in the country.
According to the report, the Taliban has enforced the wearing of hijab for women and strict rules requiring a male guardian, called a mahram, which has made it even more difficult for women to travel for employment or seek medical care.
According to a report, a doctor in Samangan has claimed that the Taliban have instructed them not to treat any female patients unless they are accompanied by a mahram or wearing a full hijab.
Abbasi, the researcher from HRW, stated that the economic crisis in Afghanistan is unlike anything seen before and is putting millions of people in danger. He believes that simply providing humanitarian aid is not enough and that long-term solutions are needed to prevent further decline and ease the immense hardships faced by the Afghan people.