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Only five hospitals in Afghanistan still offer Covid-19 treatment, with 33 others having been forced to close in recent months for lack of doctors, medicines and even heat. This comes as the economically devastated nation is hit by a steep rise in the number of reported coronavirus cases.

At Kabul’s only Covid-19 treatment hospital, staff can only heat the building at night because of lack of fuel, even as winter temperatures drop below freezing during the day. Patients are bundled under heavy blankets. Its director, Dr Mohammed Gul Liwal, said they need everything from oxygen to medicine supplies.

The facility, called the Afghan Japan Communicable Disease Hospital, has 100 beds. The Covid-19 ward is almost always full as the virus rages. Before late January, the hospital was getting one or two new coronavirus patients a day. In the past two weeks, 10 to 12 new patients have been admitted daily, Liwal said.

“The situation is worsening day by day,” said Liwal, speaking inside a chilly conference room. Since the Taliban takeover almost six months ago, hospital employees have received only one month’s salary, in December.

Afghanistan’s health care system, which survived for nearly two decades almost entirely on international donor funding, has been devastated since the Taliban returned to power in August following the chaotic end to the 20-year US-led intervention. Afghanistan’s economy crashed after nearly $10 billion in assets abroad were frozen and financial aid to the government was largely halted.

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