Forgotten crises: healthcare for refugees in Afghanistan

14.10.2020 - Article

Conflicts have been raging in Afghanistan for almost 40 years, and the country has the third-highest number of refugees worldwide. Germany is supporting a project run by Johanniter International Assistance to provide basic medical care in Gulan refugee camp on the border with Pakistan.

Political conflicts, natural disasters: 5.6 million refugees

The intra-Afghan peace negotiations are underway, but the humanitarian situation in the country remains precarious. As a result of the ongoing political conflicts which have raged in the country for almost four decades, but also earthquakes, droughts and floods, 14 million Afghans are dependent on humanitarian assistance, i.e. more than 40% of the population.

The continuing violence means that Afghanistan has the third-highest number of refugees in the world: around 5.6 million people there have lost their homes. About a million people have fled to Iran and many more are living there as guest workers. Another 2.7 million are living in Pakistan. On top of that, there are approx. 2.6 million internally displaced persons, the number having increased by 426,000 in 2019 alone.

Healthcare in Gulan refugee camp

This was the spur for a multiannual project run by Johanniter International Assistance and supported by the Federal Foreign Office from 2017 till the end of July 2020. A centre was set up in Gulan refugee camp in Khost province, south-eastern Afghanistan, on the border with Pakistan, to provide basic healthcare for refugees as well as for the local population.

A health station with an attached lab looks after the sick. Medicines are distributed, midwives support (expectant) mothers before, during and after the birth, traumatised people receive psychological support, and children are vaccinated. Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the centre has also distributed face masks and disinfectants.

Establishing basic healthcare is a key prerequisite for making sure that the people in Afghanistan, even in remote regions and provinces like Khost, have a lasting prospect of a safe and healthy life. The health station was successfully handed over to Afghan administrators in July.

17 million euro in humanitarian assistance for Afghanistan

This year, Germany has already made more than 17 million euro available for this and other humanitarian assistance projects in Afghanistan. However, humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan is still hugely underfunded. The United Nations has estimated that around 1.1 billion is needed for this year; so far, only a quarter of this has been met.

Furthermore, the Federal Foreign Office engages in its biggest bilateral stabilisation engagement in Afghanistan – 180 million euro up to the end of 2020 – and is the second-largest bilateral donor. The main aim is to create a safe environment and to strengthen government and civil‑society capacities – and to prevent any further humanitarian emergencies.


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