11 November 2021
KABUL - Afghans in need of health care services can now benefit from the initiative of UNDP and the Global Fund to inject acutely needed funding and support into the deteriorating health care system, allowing it to continue to provide essential health care across the country. The Global Fund provided US$15 million to ensure the continuity of critical health services, which was managed and delivered by UNDP, with a network of NGO and health supplies vendor partners.
A key part of this emergency bridging effort to keep the health system functioning was to ensure health workers got paid. UNDP transferred salaries for the month of October to over 24,000 health workers, almost one-third of them women, across 2,200 health facilities.
“All our colleagues were still coming to work despite the circumstances, because the cases were so high and there was a risk that the mother and child mortality rate could rise,” said a health worker in Badakhshan province. “But fortunately, with the help of UNDP, we received our October salaries on time, and this has led us to be able to continue and to work even harder.”
This initiative is being implemented in 31 out of 34 provinces across Afghanistan, in cooperation with civil society organizations established in the health sector. The project will reach 26,000 health workers by the time it is fully implemented over the coming week.
In addition to the salary disbursements, UNDP has also financed the procurement of essential medicines and health supplies for the participating health facilities.
“The total collapse of essential services covering basic human needs of the Afghan people can be prevented,” said UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific Kanni Wignaraja. “Our test of the financial and procurement systems shows that aid can be delivered directly to those whose survival depends on it. Other partners can also draw on this experience when delivering humanitarian and basic needs support for the Afghan people.”
UNDP contracted local banks and a money service provider to ensure local cash was transferred to get salaries to the health workers, working closely with the participating group of partner NGO and civil society organizations. The efforts and reach of these locally based partner organizations have been essential to making this happen.
Combining several cash transfer instruments allowed UNDP to overcome the barriers presented by the liquidity shortage in the Afghan banking system. Over 90% of all the health workers received their salaries directly into their bank accounts. UNDP continues to process salaries of another 2,000 health workers, many of whom are paid in cash because they live in remote areas and do not have bank accounts.
“Our imperative was to ensure that the most vulnerable populations, particularly women and girls, can have safe access to essential health services,” said Mark Edington, head of the Grant Management Division at the Global Fund. “This initiative shows that lifesaving programs can continue, and we call on other donors to provide emergency assistance to the people of Afghanistan at this critical juncture.”
The initiative sought to provide the resources required to bridge the gap in funding from international donors. Millions of vulnerable Afghans would otherwise be at risk of losing access to primary health care.
“This is a milestone in our efforts to offer direct support to those on the front lines of responding to basic human needs and saving lives,” said UNDP Resident Representative in Afghanistan Abdallah al Dardari. “This initiative opens the door for much-needed resources to reach the people who would otherwise consider leaving Afghanistan as their only chance for a future.”
The Global Fund and UNDP have been working together in Afghanistan since 2015 to support Afghanistan’s response to HIV, TB and malaria and strengthen systems for health across the country. In 2020 alone, with the support of the Global Fund and UNDP, the Sehatmandi project has provided antiretroviral therapy to 1,094 people, treated 45,667 people for tuberculosis and distributed more than three million long-lasting insecticide nets to protect people from malaria. In July 2021, the Global Fund approved US$14.9 million to support Afghanistan’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, mitigate the impact of the pandemic on HIV, TB and malaria programs, provide critical tests, treatments and medical supplies, protect front-line health workers and strengthen systems for health.
 The names and locations are withheld due to security concerns.