By S. K. Khan
ISLAMABAD (AA) – Mohammad Yaqoob, the acting defense minister in Afghanistan's interim Taliban administration, in his first public appearance on Wednesday called on the private sector to contribute toward strengthening the health sector in the war-ravaged country.
Yaqoob is the son of Mullah Omar, the late founder of the Taliban movement who rarely appeared in public.
“God willing, in a year or two, there would be no need for the Afghans to travel abroad for treatment,” he said, addressing a gathering at the state-owned Sardar Daud Khan Public Hospital in Kabul, the country's premier health facility for military and civilians.
The Taliban returned to power in August after a 20-year war, and have formed an interim government headed by Hassan Akhund.
Afghanistan's health sector has been shattered by years of war and conflict. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), a pause in funding for the Sehatmandi project has left millions of vulnerable Afghans at risk of losing access to essential health care.
It is a multi-donor-funded project that provides access to affordable primary and secondary health care, nutrition and family planning services across all 34 provinces of Afghanistan.
Last month, the Central Emergency Response Fund released $45 million in life-saving assistance to help prevent the country's health care system from collapsing.
This came after WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus met Taliban leaders in Afghanistan to discuss ways and means of assisting the country.
Tedros had said Afghanistan’s health system is on the brink of collapse, and “unless urgent action is taken, the country faces an imminent humanitarian catastrophe."
Meanwhile, a house-to-house polio vaccination campaign across the country is beginning on Nov. 8.
*With additional input from News Desk in Ankara