Government, Social Services
member sick, Red Crescent Society, Trachoma, United Nations World Food Program, refugee population
Near the end of Soviet involvement in Afghanistan, more than 100 national government organizations and private volunteer relief agencies from more than 20 countries were bringing relief and assistance to Afghans, both inside the country and outside to the refugee population. The government maintained hospitals to raise the level of public health. Mass vaccinations eliminated smallpox and greatly reduced typhoid fever. Government campaigns also greatly reduced the incidence of malaria. In the 1990s, however, civil war and extreme poverty prohibited improvements in the country’s welfare system.
After the Soviets departed in 1989, life in Afghanistan became desperate. In 1993 there was on average only 1 physician for every 7,002 Afghanis. In the mid-1990s there was only 1 functioning hospital for every 500,000 people in some areas. Medical supplies were in short supply because of frequent hijacking of relief convoys. Trachoma (a contagious eye disease that can result in blindness) and dysentery remained widespread, and skin diseases were rampant. Tuberculosis reached epidemic levels with surveys showing 80 percent of families with at least one member sick. Large numbers of people sustained injuries, especially lost limbs, during the war. By the mid-1990s the Red Crescent Society (the equivalent of Red Cross in Muslim countries) had opened a clinic in Kandahar. Other humanitarian relief agencies, including the United Nations World Food Program (UNWFP), subsequently began efforts to help feed Afghanistan’s starving population. Such humanitarian assistance continues to be extremely important in Afghanistan because so many of its people have been without enough food, adequate shelter, or medical care for so long. Immediately after the Taliban regime was ousted in late 2001, the UNWFP stepped up its efforts to deliver food to the population, particularly in remote areas that the relief agencies had been denied access to by the Taliban.
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