“There’s just one private doctor and he used to fix tyres” – Afghan patient

by Katie Nguyen | Katie_Nguyen1 | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 25 February 2014 15:09 GMT

An Afghan child receives polio vaccination drops during an anti-polio campaign, on the outskirts of Jalalabad June 9, 2013. REUTERS/ Parwiz

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Personal accounts of the danger and difficulty of getting medical treatment in the Afghan countryside show the limited impact of a decade of international aid and foreign miiltary intervention

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Over a six-month period, the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) interviewed more than 800 Afghans about their experience of seeking healthcare in the country.

The interviews, carried out at four MSF projects in Kabul, Kundaz, Khost and Helmand, reveal the danger, financial cost and perilous journeys many people have to make to get treatment.

Here are some of their stories as told to MSF in the report, "Between rhetoric and reality: the ongoing struggle to access healthcare in Afghanistan".

"Last year one of my brothers was taking a patient from Nawzad (district) to the hospital in Lashkar Gah. There was a terrible bomb on the road. Three people were in the car - my brother, the patient and the patient's relative. They all died" - 22-year-old farmer from Nawzad district, Helmand province.

"If we have a pregnant woman and we need to get her to a maternity centre in Kunduz town it's not always possible. It's too dangerous. But if the pregnant woman is in too much pain, and something is wrong, then we will have to travel, even close to night, to try to save her and the baby. Then it's like we're going to a wedding ceremony there are so many of us moving together. There is safety in numbers, so we go in a big group to escape the armed men. If they see too many people, they don't attack. But if there are only one or two of us, the bandits will get us" - 25-year-old male, Imam Sahib district, Kunduz province.

"In my area, there's just one private doctor and he used to fix tyres. He didn't study medicine, but has one big medical book in Pashto. When I went to see him with head pains he told me to look up the book myself to find a treatment. That's not a doctor. How can he treat anyone who is seriously sick?" - 22-year-old farmer, Nawzad district, Helmand province.

 "We didn't have any government clinic near us until recently. Now there are always crowds of sick people there but no good quality doctors to treat them properly. Also, in the public clinic there is a lot of queue jumping and corruption. You have to pay the doctors a bribe to be seen. They don't really care about the patients. They are just waiting in their office for the day to end so they can go home" - 33-year-old woman, Marjah district, Helmand province.

"If you manage to make it to the government hospital, there is more trouble waiting for you. If you bring a wounded man to the public hospital, the government will send an investigation team. They will accuse the injured man of being on the side of the insurgents and will interrogate him. They try to find out which party the man belongs to, who he might be supporting. So injured men don't want to go to the hospital, because they are worried about the investigation teams" - 18-year-old shop assistant, from Laghman province living in District 12, Kabul.

"We live in a village far away from here. My mother has diabetes and when she gets sick we need to bring her all the way into the centre for care. Many times we can't go because we can't find a man who has enough time to accompany us. Even when she was injured this time, it was really difficult for us to get here, because we had no man to come with us" - 43-year-old woman, Kunduz district, Kunduz province.

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