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Foreign aid drops sharply as Taliban abuses jeopardize the Afghan health system, group says

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Human Rights Watch said Monday that Afghanistan’s public health system has been hit hard following a sharp reduction in foreign assistance, coupled with serious Taliban abuses against women and girls, jeopardizing the right to healthcare of millions of Afghans.

In a new report, the New York-based watchdog said this has left the “Afghan population increasingly vulnerable to severe malnutrition and illness” among other effects of inadequate medical care.

The Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021 drove millions into poverty and hunger after foreign aid stopped almost overnight. Sanctions against the Taliban rulers, a halt on bank transfers and frozen billions in Afghanistan’s currency reserves, have cut off access to global institutions and the outside money that supported the aid-dependent economy before the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces.

In 2023, the World Food Program warned that malnutrition rates in Afghanistan were at a record high with half the country suffering from severe hunger throughout the year.

“Women and girls have been disproportionately affected by the healthcare crisis, particularly because of Taliban abuses,” said the report.

The Taliban have barred women from most areas of public life and work and stopped girls from going to school beyond the sixth grade as part of harsh measures they imposed after taking power.

Taliban restrictions on women’s freedom of movement and employment have gravely limited their access to health services, the HRW report said, while bans on education have blocked almost all training of future female healthcare workers in the country.

“The loss of foreign development aid and Taliban rights violations have caused a catastrophic health crisis in