Primary healthcare system and provider responses to the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan

Mustafa Basij-Rasikh, Elisa S. Dickey, Alyssa Sharkey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Introduction Existing health system challenges in Afghanistan were amplified by the Taliban’s August 2021 government takeover during which the country faced an evolving security situation, border closures, banking interruptions, donor funding disruptions and international staff evacuations. We investigated factors that influenced health sector and health service delivery following the takeover. Methods We purposively sampled individuals knowledgeable about Afghanistan’s health sector and health professionals working in underserved areas of the country. We identified codes and themes of the data using framework analysis. Results Factors identified as supporting continued health service delivery following August 2021 include external funding and operational flexibilities, ongoing care provision by local implementers and providers, health worker motivation, flexible contracting out arrangements and improved security. Factors identified as contributing to disruptions include damaged infrastructure, limited supplies, ineffective government implementation efforts and changes in government leadership and policies resulting in new coordination and capacity challenges. There were mixed views on the role pay-for-performance schemes played. Participants also shared concerns about the new working environment. These included loss of qualified health professionals and the associated impact on quality of care, continued dependency on external funding, women’s inability to finish their studies or take on any leadership positions, various impacts of the Mahram policy, mental stress, the future of care provision for female patients and widespread economic hardship which impacts nearly every aspect of Afghan life. Conclusion Afghanistan’s health sector presents a compelling case of adaptability in the face of crisis. Despite the anticipated and reported total collapse due to the country’s power shift, various factors enabled health services to continue in some settings while others acted as barriers. The potential role of these factors should be considered in the context of future service delivery in Afghanistan and other settings at risk of political and societal disruption.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere013760
JournalBMJ Global Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 20 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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