Afghanistan | Programme areas | Health emergencies and Health Cluster

Health emergencies and Health Cluster

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Situation updates

Afghanistan suffers from one of the longest protracted complex emergencies due to conflict, natural disasters and mass population movements. In 2017, the intensity of the conflict expanded to different regions resulting in higher number of internally displaced people and trauma cases. The displacement has resulted in the need for additional emergency service support. Between January and September 2017, trauma cases increased by 21% from those recorded at the same time in 2016.

An increase in the frequency and intensity of conflict has also resulted in increased violence against health service providers and closure of facilities. 


Health emergencies

Leadership and institutional capacities enhanced, including development of National Disaster Management Plan and National Emergency Response Plan for Health. These included Health Cluster coordination, national and regional Control and Command Centers (CCC) and Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPR) Committees at all levels.

Enhancement of trauma care service in high-risk areas, including upscaling of 41 hospitals with trauma care service (TCS) capacities through mass casualty management plans development, space arrangement, equipping and capacity-building and upgrading of 11 regional and provincial hospitals for improved blood transfusion services. 

A total of 1928 medical staff and community health workers have been trained on advanced and basic life support, triage, ambulance services, safe blood transfusions, mental health and health risk assessment.

Through stockpiling and distribution of emergency health kits and medicines, including 63 Italian Emergency Trauma Kits, 489 basic Interagency Emergency Health kits and 69 supplementary IEHK, 446 acute respiratory infection kits and 50 diarrhoea kits and loose medicines, WHO Health Emergencies Programme provided life-saving medicines and supplies to over 1 423 351 people affected by conflict and natural disasters.

Health cluster

In 2017, WHO and Health Cluster-implementing partners reached 982 486 beneficiaries (436 976 women and 142 477 girls). 

In 2017, the Health Cluster provided emergency health services to 31 423 returnees at Torkham Zero Point border crossing. The Cluster also supported Zaranj Zero Point in Nimroz province to reach returnees from Islamic Republic of Iran and more than 80 000 IDPs in Nangarhar Province.

WHO conducted public awareness campaigns targeting returnees and the host communities on the prevention of measles, acute respioratory infections and diarrhoeal diseases through community outreach and radio spots reaching over 125 000 returnees.

The Health Cluster was responsible for reporting attacks on health facilities and healthcare workers, as well as related advocacy.

Programme risks and challenges

Some of the risks and challenges include:

  • escalating conflict and population movements increase the need for humanitarian health services to be expanded for a further one million people.
  • funding pledges are unpredictable due to extended emergencies in the region, reducing the response capacity.
  • increasing numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and an influx of returnees from Pakistan and Islamic Republic of Iran.
  • improving security and limited accessibility to emergency locations in high-risk provinces and damage to hospitals hampers essential emergency health services, capacity-building and monitoring activities in conflict areas.

Way forward

  • Improve monitoring and reporting of WHO and partners’ projects. 
  • Improve and apply standard needs assessment tools/methodologies.
  • Institutionalize emergency risk analysis and response at all levels (villages, district and provincial).

Related links

WHO Emergency and Humanitarian Action monthly updates 

WHO Afghanistan Health Cluster