Dr. Richard Brennan, WHO Emergency Operations: The “Delicate Dance” with the Taliban

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Dr. Richard Brennan, WHO Emergency Operations, sat down this week with myself and Professor Leonard Rubenstein, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Rick has been at the very center of urgent efforts, following the Taliban’s coming to power in mid-August, to avoid the collapse of Afghanistan’s health system, through fast-moving negotiations to bring emergency funding, opening air links, resuming Covid-19, polio, and measles immunization programs, and delivering emergency medical supplies. The political and security complexities to achieving these short-term, emergency stop-gap measures remain formidable, and the space for striking deals exceedingly narrow. How has the Taliban leadership seen things, and how did they agree to these initial measures which have to operate outside their control, a precondition of donors? What is the space in which he and others can find financing solutions that will sustain the health system long-term? Pressures upon WHO Emergency Operations in Afghanistan, combined with demands in Lebanon, Yemen, and Syria, have escalated to levels that greatly exceed capacities. What is to be done now?  

Dr. Richard Brennan is Regional Emergency Director, Eastern Mediterranean Region, World Health Organization.

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