Deputy health minister: Level of cooperation between Azerbaijan and Afghanistan in health can improve (INTERVIEW)
Azerbaijan, Baku, February 5 / Trend , T.Jafarov/
Trend Persian desk's interview with Deputy Health Minister of Afghanistan, Abdullah Fahim, who is on a visit to Baku
Trend : What can you tell about the cooperation in the field of health between Azerbaijan and Afghanistan, are any discussions conducted?
Abdullah Fahim: We cooperated with Azerbaijan in a limited way within the Economic Cooperation Organization. We hope that after closer acquaintance with Azerbaijan and the potential of the country, the level of cooperation between Azerbaijan and Afghanistan in the field of health will increase.
I will meet with the Health Minister of Azerbaijan Oktay Shiraliyev, which will focus on strengthening cooperation.
Q: In terms of technology in health care and the situation in this regard in general, Afghanistan is one of the most backward countries in the world. What measures are being taken to improve the situation?
A: Indeed, as you pointed out, in terms of health, Afghanistan was in quite miserable situation. After the overthrow of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, along with small clinics and large hospitals, there were 900 health institutions and hospitals. We can say that more than half the buildings of health institutions were partially or completely destroyed. In order to develop the health sector, we have been able to increase the number of health facilities, bringing the number up to 1700.
At first, the health services were provided in irregular form, but now a network was established for first aid in this regard. Despite the functioning of this network in many regions of the country, 65 percent of the population can benefit from its services over an interval of just under two hours. In addition, the Ministry conducts reform to improve the level of hospital services. This reform is implemented, we can say, in half the country's hospitals.
After the overthrow of the Taliban regime, infant mortality, and in particular the mortality of children under five years made up 257 people per 1000 infants. Currently, the figure is 161, which gives us a hope. Despite that exact research regarding maternal mortality has not been conducted, at that time the figure made up 1,600 deaths per every 100,000 people. Currently, the figure is 900 people. This year, the Health Ministry of Afghanistan will hold a serious study regarding maternal mortality. I listed all these as part of the achievements of the Health Ministry of Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan, significant achievements have been made in the identification and treatment of tuberculosis. Earlier, there were 37 centers for the tuberculosis treatment, but now there are 1,000. Also the number of malaria has greatly reduced in the country. It is part of Afghanistan's achievements in health.
Q: How do you assess the fact of allocating budget funds for projects in health and improvements in this sphere in Afghanistan and assistance by the international community?
A: Funds allocated to the health from budget is indeed very small. The reason is that the Afghan budget is provided through international assistance.
Assistance to the health of Afghanistan by the international community is considered satisfactory. On on average estimate, the international community provides $120-150 million to this sphere per year. However, Afghanistan still faces the need of assistance. In particular, there is a need for assistance to improve infrastructure and substandard health institutions. In far regions of Afghanistan, we are providing health services for people in rented houses. It needs to build medical facilities in these regions. Also we incur shortage of medical technology in these regions. In Afghanistan, there is still a lack of health workers, especially in far regions. Given the nature of Afghan culture, the country mostly experiences lack of female doctors.
Q: Does Afghanistan cooperate with the countries of the region in health sector? Are special programs envisaged to raise the level of cooperation?
A: Afghanistan has cooperated in the field of health with the countries of the region and Iran. Given the existing potential in Iran, we consider largely insufficient the level of cooperation between Iran and Afghanistan. At present, a document is prepared to increase the level of cooperation with Iran. This activity is seriously conducted by the Iranian embassy in Afghanistan. I hope that in future we will witness the expansion of Iran's activities in Afghanistan in the health sector. After all, for activities in Afghanistan, Iran has a wide potential. There are no language and cultural problems between Iran and Afghanistan, due to which its experience can be most useful for us.
Q: Currently one of the problems disturbing the Afghan public is the problem of drugs and drug addicts. How many drug addicts are there in the country and what measures are taken to combat drug addiction?
A: Recent studies indicate that more than one million people nationwide are addicted to various drugs (hashish, opium, heroin). Currently, the country has 40 centers for the treatment of drug addicts. However, they are not enough to combat the problem in Afghanistan. Recently a delegation from Iran visited Afghanistan. During the visit we had discussions to take advantage of Iran's experience in this regard. In addition, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime helps us in this respect. Like other spheres, we need the help of the international community in this field.