Afghanistan signs $100 million grant with World Bank for better health outcomes

The government of Afghanistan signed a $100 million grant with the World Bank on Monday to finance the Afghanistan System Enhancement for Health Action in Transition program.

The grant from the World Bank's International Development Association will help Afghanistan's Ministry of Public Health to expand its basic health and essential hospital services. With the help of SEHAT, Afghanistan aims to immunize 60 percent of children between 12 and 23 months of age against five vaccine-preventable diseases by 2018.

"The World Bank's support has been instrumental in enabling us to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Afghans, particularly women and children," Suraya Dalil, the minister of public health of Afghanistan, said. "Providing a basic package of health services and an essential package of hospital services has proved to produce encouraging results, particularly in remote and underserved areas. As we continue to deliver our commitment in expanding provision of health services to all Afghans across the country, we appreciate the World Bank's assistance at this crucial period of the transition process."

SEHAT follows two earlier projects financed by the World Bank in Afghanistan. The country has made significant progress in the health sector in the past decade, with the number of health facilities tripling in 11 targeted provinces and with the training and deployment of 20,000 community health workers.

The country still faces significant challenges, as Afghanistan's infant and under-five mortality rates remain higher than average for low income countries.

"The encouraging achievements in the health sector over the past decade were possible because of the Ministry of Public Health's commitment to improving health services and measuring service delivery performance with assistance from its partner NGOs," Illango Patchamuthu, the World Bank's acting country director for Afghanistan, said. "This new program will help ensure expansion of basic health and hospital services for both urban and rural areas where due to lack of such services thousands of people, particularly women and children, lose their lives every year. We believe these packages of health services we finance play a vital role in improving the health of Afghans."