Ebad is part of a Taliban delegation visiting Geneva for a week of talks with non-governmental institutions and agencies on humanitarian access and human rights, as Afghanistan’s new rulers expand their international engagement.
The hardline Islamist Taliban movement returned to power in Kabul in mid-August as the United States ended its 20-year war in Afghanistan.
Since then, Afghanistan has been plunged into financial chaos, with inflation and unemployment on the rise, while the aid cutoff has triggered a humanitarian crisis in a country already devastated by decades of war.
Tedros had already met with Ebad during his visit to Kabul in September 2021 following the Taliban’s seizure of power.
“Despite some improvements since then, the health situation in Afghanistan remains dire and the acute humanitarian crisis continues to put lives at risk,” Tedros said.
He said they discussed the health needs in the country, system strengthening, emergency preparedness, and training of the health workforce, for which women are critical.
“The great need in Afghanistan is to provide diagnostics to detect the Covid-19 virus, and in particular Omicron, as the number of cases is increasing,” said Tedros.
The Taliban delegation is in Switzerland at the invitation of Geneva Call, which works to protect civilians during conflict.
The foundation is organizing a conference on Afghanistan behind closed doors from Monday to Friday, with the aim of improving the smooth delivery of humanitarian assistance in the country.
The Taliban delegation will also meet Swiss and other European officials as well as the Red Cross during their visit, although the Swiss Foreign Ministry insisted that their presence on Swiss soil did not constitute recognition of the regime.
Tedros said the WHO was supporting Afghanistan’s Covid-19 response and its efforts in polio and measles immunization campaigns.
“We also discussed progress in girls’ education at all levels, including higher education and support for joining the health workforce,” the head of the UN health agency said.
“WHO calls on the international community to continue the dialogue to support the people of Afghanistan, so that we improve the health and well-being of all Afghans.”
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