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 need for additional emergency service support. In the first six months of 2018, there was a 14% increase in conflict-related need for trauma care compared to the same period last year. This was particularly the case in Helmand, Kunduz and Kunar.

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 (MCM) plans development, space arrangement, equipping and capacity building and upgrading of 11 regional and provincial hospitals for improved blood transfusion services. 

The data collection for the National Health Emergency Risk Assessment is completed in 266 districts of 34 provinces.

A total of 1,928 medical staff and community health workers (CHWs) were trained in 2017 on advanced and basic life support (ALS and BLS), triage, ambulance services, safe blood transfusions, mental health and health risk assessment.

In the first six months of 2018, WHO Health Emergencies Programme provided life-saving medicines and supplies to over 1,4 million people affected by conflict and natural disasters through stockpiling and distribution of emergency health kits and medicines. 

Health cluster

In the first six months of 2018, Health Cluster partners reached over 1.2 m people with essential and lifesaving health services like vaccination, antenatal and postnatal care, surgery and psychological support.  

In 2018 there was the highest number of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) cases reported in 10 years.

In 2017, WHO conducted public awareness campaigns targeting returnees and the host communities on the prevention of measles, ARI and diarrhoeal diseases through community outreach and radio spots reaching over 125,000 returnees.

In the first half of 2018, Health Cluster and its partners have been responding to a drought that affects the northern region of the country. Up to 2,2 million people may be affected by food insecurity. 

Health cluster partners also responded to a flash flood in Badghis and neighbouring provinces in May 2018. 

Bird flu was a major concern in early 2018. The disease spread to several hundred farms. 460,000 chicken were disposed. 

Programme risks and challenges

Escalating conflict and population movements increase the need for humanitarian health services 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 due to drought and conflict and the influx of returnees from Pakistan and Iran.

Increased risk of vector- and water-borne diseases, malnutrition and mental health diseases as a consequences of drought this year.

Insecurity 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. 

Attacks on healthcare have increased as compared to previous years. In the first six months of 2018, 53 incidents were reported. 12 health care workers were killed/injured and 28 health facilities were either closed or destroyed. 

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 

Photo essays

Photo essays

Photo essays

Key health-related statistics

Population (m) 31,5
Health expenditure (% of GDP) 9.5
Adult (15+) literacy rate (%) 34.3
Life expectancy at birth F/M (2010) 62-64

Sources: Central Statistics office, Afghanistan National health Accounts, Afghanistan Living Conditions Survey, Afghanistan mortality survey. 

Framework for health information systems and core indicators for monitoring health situation and health system performance, 2018

Afghanistan country health profile

Regional Health Observatory

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UNOCA Compound, Jalalabad Road

Afghanistan WHO headquarters page