WHO warns Afghanistan's collapse could worsen coronavirus crisis

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned Tuesday that the collapse of Afghanistan’s government could worsen the COVID-19 crisis as people are displaced amid the Taliban’s takeover. 

The chaos in Afghanistan following the U.S. withdrawal of troops has sparked fear among diplomats and citizens seeking to flee the country, making coronavirus precautions difficult to maintain, WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic said during a United Nations briefing.

“Obviously, when we have situations with people on the move, these individual and collective measures are difficult to put in place and thus increases the risk of COVID-19 but other infectious diseases as well,” Jasarevic said.

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The pandemonium at Kabul’s international airport is also “delaying urgently needed” health supplies, he said, noting that “disruption to health services can have a dire” effect.  

“The ongoing conflict is setting a heavy toll on the already fragile health system in Afghanistan that has been facing a shortage of essential medical supplies and equipment in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Jasarevic said. 

Needs assessments and mobile health teams' efforts have been on hold for the past 24 hours, he said. 

At the same time, COVID-19 vaccinations have slowed in the country, Jasarevic noted, adding that WHO is monitoring the security situation to increase them. 

Afghanistan has administered 1.81 million vaccine doses to its residents. That amounts to 4.65 doses per 100,000 people. By comparison, 106.58 doses have been administered per 100,000 people in the U.S. 

Afghanistan has recorded more than 10,600 COVID-19 cases and 812 deaths in the past 28 days, contributing to the total more than 152,000 cases and 7,025 fatalities, according to data from Johns Hopkins University