WHO hopes to establish air bridge into northern Afghanistan

Kabul airport not expected to be operational for a week, says WHO. Trauma kits and emergency supplies for hospitals and medicines are short: WHO. Escape of health care workers trained as midwives in recent years, nurses and doctors, adds to an enormous brain-drain from Afghanistan.

WHO hopes to establish air bridge into northern Afghanistan

GENEVA: The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday said that it hopes to establish an "air bridge" into Mazar-i-Sharif city with Pakistani assistance to overcome the expected shortage of medical supplies in Afghanistan owing to a week long suspension of operations at Kabul airport.

Trauma kits and emergency supplies for hospitals, as well as medicines for treating chronic malnutrition in children, are among priority items for Afghanistan, where 18 million people depend on aid, said the WHO's Regional Emergency Director Rick Brennan.

"What remains certain is that humanitarian needs are enormous and growing," Rick Brennan told a UN briefing.

At least one Daesh suicide bomber killed 85 people, including 13 US soldiers, outside the gates of Kabul airport in twin blasts on Thursday evening.

More than 200 people wounded in the bombings have been taken to hospitals in the Afghan capital, including a facility run by the Italian NGO EMERGENCY whose trauma supplies are dwindling, said Brennan, speaking from Cairo.

"Right now because of security concerns and several other operational considerations, Kabul airport is not going to be an option for the next week at least," he said.

"One of the problems we have in Afghanistan right now is there is no civil aviation authority functioning, but we are working with Pakistan particularly in the context of Mazar-i-Sharif airport. Because they can work with contacts on the ground so that all the necessary steps to land an aircraft, to land a cargo aircraft, can be put in place," Brennan said.

US military forces, who have guarded Kabul airport, are due to withdraw on August 31, leaving a vacuum.

Turkey has not made a final decision on the Taliban request for support to run Kabul airport after foreign forces withdraw over security concerns and uncertainty in Afghanistan, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday, adding talks were still underway.

Insurance rates for flying into Afghanistan had "skyrocketed at prices we have never seen before" in the 12 hours since the blasts, Brennan said.

"So we are trying to jump through that hoop at the moment, and once we have addressed it, we will hopefully be airborne in the next 48 to 72 hours."

Some 97% of the health facilities across Afghanistan monitored by WHO are functioning, he said.

"The more sobering news is these health facilities are rapidly running out of medical supplies, and WHO is not currently able to meet these needs."

Some health care workers, particularly the women trained as midwives in recent years, nurses and doctors, have fled, adding to the "enormous brain drain" from the country, Brennan added. 

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