Afghanistan’s few modern health facilities are mostly concentrated in Kabul and other cities. The country has always had a shortage of medical facilities, particularly in rural areas. Since 1979, the available health care has greatly deteriorated. Afghanistan now has a severe shortage of doctors, nurses, medical supplies, drugs and hospital beds. In areas controlled by the Taliban, male doctors were forbidden to see female patients, and female doctors were forbidden to practise, leaving women completely without medical care. The current transitional government is working to reopen hospitals and boost the level of available care.

With the help of foreign donors and international relief organizations, surgical departments of hospitals have been revived in some cities, and special centres have been established to rehabilitate victims of land mines. International medical volunteers work in rural areas, and the Red Cross manages workshops that make artificial limbs for amputees.

Despite these efforts, the quality of life in Afghanistan remains poor, and the average life expectancy is only 46 years. War, recurrent droughts, poor sanitation and the absence of immunization programs have led to widespread malnutrition and outbreaks of diseases such as cholera (caused by unsanitary drinking water), malaria, measles, tuberculosis, typhoid and diseases caused by intestinal parasites. The estimated 10 million landmines buried throughout the country maim and kill people daily. Childhood mortality is high, and with a high fertility rate, many women die from complications related to childbirth. In addition, millions of displaced and traumatized Afghans suffer from mental health problems such as depression and stress disorders.

In the absence of other treatments, many Afghans rely on natural therapies to treat a variety of ailments. Unani, an ancient holistic system of medicine, is practiced by Hakims, who use herbs and dietary regimens to cure disease.

  Did you know?
Mullahs, scholars of Islamic theology, are sometimes asked for prayers to cure sicknesses and cases of spirit possession.