Responding to the public
health crisis in Afghanistan
PETER SALAMA, JENNIFER LEANING, AND ANNALIES BORREL
The Al Qaeda organization, which carried out the September 11 terrorist attacks, was based in Afghanistan and closely associated with the Taliban government there, which had ravaged the Afghan people, violated their human rights, and further worsened their health and quality of life—already seriously damaged by decades of war and civil strife. In response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, the U. S. military, allies, and in-country opposition forces brought down the Taliban government in October 2001. The new political situation has led to increased opportunities to respond to the public health crisis in Afghanistan. This chapter describes that crisis and the response to it.
Afghanistan is a landlocked country of 652,225 square kilometers—slightly smaller than Texas—that shares its borders with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan to the north, China to the northeast, Pakistan to the east, and Iran to the west. Rugged mountainous terrain, large deserts, limited arable land, and a shortage of water characterize its geography. Climactic conditions are extreme, with hot, dry summers and harsh winters, which furnish the snow that feeds its five major river systems, providing water for irrigation.