Kabul - Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) has reached an agreement with the Afghan authorities to set up activities in two hospitals. The medical humanitarian organisation aims to start working in the provincial hospital of Helmand in Lashkar Gah, and the district hospital in Arzan Qimat, Kabul province, in September. For its work in Afghanistan, MSF will not accept financial support from any government and chooses to rely solely on private donations, thus safeguarding its independence from political and military powers.
“There is no reliable information as to what extent health care in Afghanistan is functioning at the moment,” said Michiel Hofman, Head of Mission for MSF. “The high levels of insecurity make it virtually impossible to monitor what is going well, and where there are major deficiencies. Based on our research and many contacts in the country, we have come to the conclusion that a large number of Afghans are hard pressed to find the health care they need.
"The intensity of the conflict leads to many wounded and displaced and to a disruption of services, adding to the health crisis faced in parts of Afghanistan. Therefore, as a humanitarian organisation specialised in emergencies, we have decided that we need to work again in Afghanistan.”
Boost Hospital in Lashkar Gah is one of the key health facilities in the south of Afghanistan, a region that is severely affected by ongoing conflict. Though the building is in good shape and medical staff available, the hospital receives little support and cannot deliver basic secondary health services. MSF plans to revitalise the hospital so it can provide a comprehensive package of medical care, including emergency medicine, surgery, infectious diseases management and reproductive health care.
The Ahmed Shah Baba Hospital in Arzan Qimat, in Kabul’s District 12, has been put forward as a referral facility. The population of Kabul has more than doubled in the last six years, for a considerable part as a consequence of internal displacement and the return of refugees who have no other place to go. Yet, in spite of this demographic boom, there has been little investment in basic health services for such vulnerable groups. MSF will support Ahmed Shah Baba Hospital on all levels, from provision of care to training and management.
“In large parts of Afghanistan today, those who seek medical care have to rely on private clinics, where they are often charged prohibitive fees for consultations, treatment and drugs,” said Hofman. “A key element in our approach in both hospitals will be to provide medical services for free, for a population that is already struggling to survive amidst intense and continuous violence.”
MSF expects to sign an agreement for the two hospitals with the Ministry of Public Health this Tuesday. The return of MSF to Afghanistan marks the end of a five-year absence, following the murder on five of its workers in Badghis province on June 2, 2004.