Afghanistan to set up 100,000 new hospital beds for COVID-19 patients

Kabul, May 4 (efe-epa).- Afghanistan will provide 100,000 new hospital beds, including for 1,030 Intensive Care Units (ICUs), throughout the country as part of efforts to expand health care services for the COVID-19 patients and to minimize the risks from the global pandemic, the government announced on Monday.

So far 2,894 cases have been reported in the war-ravaged country so far, with 90 deaths.

“Based on the directions of president Ashraf Ghani it has been planned for the Public Health Ministry to create 100,000 (new hospital) beds in 34 provinces,” Wahidullah Majroh, Deputy Public Health Minister told a press conference in Kabul.

Currently there are only 2,300 beds available in hospitals for Covid-19 patients.

At least 1,030 of these beds will be for ICUs, which will be equipped with the necessary medical equipment and supplies in all 34 provinces of the country.

“With creation of this number of beds, no Afghan (citizen) with COVID-19 infection will be deprived of the health services,” Majroh said, adding that “this is a turning point in the health sector of the country, to have this many ICU beds in 34 provinces with such good quality.”

Afghanistan has one of the world’s most fragile health care systems, with only 5 hospital beds available per 10,000 citizens, while access to basic health services is fraught with problems because of high levels of violence and insecurity, as well as the remoteness of the clinics from villages.

Majroh said that thanks to international donations, particularly the $100 million of the World Bank and $40 million of the Asian Development Bank, the country will build some health facilities and will also expand its COVID-19 testing capacity.

The number of COVID-19 testing laboratories will be increased from the current 7 to 15 in various parts of the country, while rapid testing will be also available in ICUs and hospitals in all districts of the 34 provinces.

Current limited testing capacity has raised concerns that the actual number of infected people could be far higher, as the country, which has a population of 32 millions, has so far only performed around 12,000 COVID-19 tests.

Those concerns were justified last week after the health ministry announced a random test of 500 citizens in Kabul showed that one third were infected with the virus, despite the most recent official figures reporting only 2,894 cases.

Majroh warned that increased health facilities would not be more effective in fighting the spread of the virus until people pay attention to preventive health instructions.

“The level of the (COVID-19) threat is high, but the big concern is that citizens don’t take it seriously. We can only prevent the disaster if people pay attention to health guidelines and instructions,” Majroh said.

In late March, the Afghan Health Ministry predicted that more than 16 million Afghans could get infected, out of whom 210,000 with serious symptoms would have to be admitted in hospitals for intensive care. Over half of those patients could die if the fight against the virus is not taken seriously and properly handled and guidelines were not applied by people, the ministry warned.

The WHO will partner the Afghan government in the fight against COVID-19 by providing technical support, training health providers, improving the capacity of the ICUs and providing public awareness, Najibullah Safi, representative of the WHO in Kabul said at the same press conference.

“I want to renew the WHO commitment to the Afghan people and government, not only in the fight against COVID-19, but in all aspects which are priorities for the Afghan people,” Safi said. EFE-EPA


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