WHO chief and Taliban discuss ‘serious’ Afghan health crisis | News
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus met with the Taliban Minister of Health who is part of the Taliban delegation currently visiting Switzerland.
The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday he had met with the health minister of the Taliban-led government in Afghanistan for talks on the “serious” health and humanitarian crisis in the country.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus revealed he met Qalander Ebad for talks on Tuesday.
Ebad is part of a Taliban delegation visiting Geneva for a week of talks with institutions and non-governmental agencies on humanitarian access and human rights, as the new Afghan leadership expands its international engagement.
The Taliban movement returned to power in Kabul in mid-August as the United States ended its 20-year war in Afghanistan.
Since then, Afghanistan has plunged into financial chaos, with soaring inflation and unemployment, while aid cuts and US sanctions have sparked a humanitarian crisis in a country already devastated by decades of war.
Tedros had previously met Ebad when he visited Kabul in September 2021 following the Taliban takeover.
“Despite some improvements since then, the health situation in Afghanistan is still dire and the acute humanitarian crisis continues to put lives at risk,” Tedros said.
He said they discussed the health needs in the country, system strengthening, emergency preparedness and training of health personnel, in which women are central.
“The urgent need in Afghanistan is to provide diagnostics to detect the COVID-19 virus, and in particular Omicron, as the number of cases is increasing,” Tedros said.
The Taliban delegation, representing what it calls the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), is in Switzerland at the invitation of Geneva Call, which works to protect civilians in conflict.
The foundation is hosting a closed-door Afghanistan conference from Monday to Friday, aimed at improving the unhindered flow of humanitarian aid into the country.
Tedros said the WHO is supporting Afghanistan’s COVID-19 response, as well as its polio and measles vaccination campaigns.
“We also discussed progress in girls’ education at all levels, including higher education and support to join the health workforce,” said the head of the UN health agency.
“WHO calls on the international community to continue the dialogue in support of the Afghan people, in order to improve the health and well-being of all Afghans.”
The Taliban delegation will also meet Swiss and European officials, as well as the Red Cross during their visit – although the Swiss foreign ministry has insisted that its presence on Swiss soil does not constitute recognition of the government.
Geneva medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said it would also meet with the delegation.
“MSF has been in contact for several years with the IEA’s Ministry of Health, within the framework of our medical activities in Afghanistan. We will meet with them while they are in Geneva to discuss current medical needs and our plans,” a spokesperson told AFP.
Last month, a Taliban delegation led by Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi traveled to Oslo where they met with senior US and European officials.
Increasing humanitarian aid and improving human rights in Afghanistan were on the agenda of the talks held in the Norwegian capital.