By Stephanie Nebehay and Emma Farge
GENEVA (Reuters) -Health workers are struggling to get medicines and supplies into Afghanistan where facilities have come under attack and some staff have fled escalating violence, a World Health Organization official said on Friday.
Taliban fighters have signalled they want continued support for health services in the areas they are taking, the WHO’s regional emergencies director, Rick Brennan, said.
But the situation was fluid and needs remained “enormous and complex” in a country where at least 18.4 million people require humanitarian assistance, including 3.1 million children at risk of acute malnutrition, he added.
Taliban officials said on Friday they had taken control of 85% of territory in Afghanistan.
Government officials dismissed the assertion by a Taliban delegation visiting Moscow as part of a propaganda campaign launched as foreign forces, including the United States, withdraw after almost 20 years of fighting.
“We are concerned about our lack of access to be able to provide essential medicines and supplies and we are concerned about attacks on health care,” Brennan, speaking via videolink from Cairo, told a U.N. briefing in Geneva.
There had been 30 attacks on facilities this year, including a reported artillery attack on a health centre in Kunar province two days ago, he added, without saying who was responsible.
Health workers in some rural clinics had fled, though others had returned to their jobs, he added.
“The Taliban are asking through indirect means, informally, for support for the continuity of health services in the areas that they are taking … So I hope that there will be some stability,” Brennan said.
Some aid would arrive by next week including 3.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses and oxygen concentrators, he said. They included doses of Johnson & Johnson’s shot donated by the United States and AstraZeneca doses through the COVAX facility.
(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay and Emma Farge; Editing by Andrew Heavens)