"Instead of focusing on maternal health, on nutritional status, we will spend it on trauma"
By Serena Chaudhry
LONDON, May 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Deteriorating security is forcing Afghanistan to spend more money on trauma care, rather than investing in women and children's health, its health minister said on Thursday.
The government has come under increasing pressure over rising violence, with a string of attacks this year causing hundreds of casualties in the capital, Kabul, alone.
"The concern is that nowadays, suicide bombings and armed conflict is the third (highest) cause of deaths and disability in Afghanistan," Ferozuddin Feroz told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview in London.
"Instead of focusing on maternal health, on nutritional status, we will spend it on trauma."
Afghanistan's health system is rudimentary, battered by decades of war and conflict. About 60 percent of the population has access to health services - defined as being within one hour's walking distance, Feroz said.
Feroz, who is a trained doctor and has advised other countries on health system reform, aims to increase this to 75 percent by the end of 2018.
Afghanistan has made gains in maternal health, with 400 deaths per 100,000 live births, up from 1,600 per 100,000 in 2002, according to the United Nations Population Fund - but it is still one of the worst rates in the world.
"Maintaining these achievements during an increasing security situation is really a challenge," Feroz said.
"If we maintain the current rate of funding, that also would help us to maintain what we have achieved."
Feroz was in London to meet with researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which is providing his ministry with technical support to develop a basic healthcare package with funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
(Reporting by Serena Chaudhry; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)
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