The United Nations estimates that over 60% of people in Afghanistan will require humanitarian aid to combat the devastating poverty plaguing the Afghani people. With almost 97% of Afghans living at or below the poverty line, rural communities like Bamyan, a mountainous province in Afghanistan, are particularly at risk. This poor and marginalized community had no access to health care for years. But in March 2023, Doctors Without Borders provided a beacon of hope when they opened eight clinics in Bamyan, providing this poverty-stricken community with essential medical care.
Afghanistan in Crisis
Afghanistan has struggled with decades of conflict and political upheaval, leaving many without critical social support systems. Since the Taliban takeover in 2021, locals have seen a staggering rise in cost-of-living expenses, resulting in 28.3 million Afghanis needing humanitarian assistance – particularly medical assistance.
In 2022, Doctors Without Borders saw increased traffic to existing medical facilities in Afghanistan. Kabul and Kandahar were hit particularly hard with outbreaks of diarrhea, and medical workers fortified existing medical facilities in response to outbreaks in these areas. However, many communities in Afghanistan do not have access to medical care due to their remote and rural location, including rural communities in the large province of Bamyan.
Hope for the People of Bamyan
Bamyan is home to the Hazara people, a poor ethnic minority who live in rural and remote villages that historically had little access to centralized health care. Naqiba, aged 19, delivered her second child at one of the new clinics in Bamyan supported by Doctors Without Borders. Her previous childbirth experience was much more taxing for her and her family. Naqiba recalls, “When my first son was born, my mother-in-law had to pay 6,000 AFG (about $70) so we could travel to Bamyan’s provincial hospital. Now, we can finally get care closer to home for free.”
Naqiba’s family was able to assist with her travel expenses during her first pregnancy, but over 40% of new mothers in Bamyan delivered children at home without professional medical assistance, likely due to financial restrictions. New medical clinics in Bamyan are already revving up to bring much-needed childbirth and pediatric care to these impoverished communities. Since Doctors Without Borders built these clinics in early 2023, their workers have provided over 1,200 prenatal and postnatal consultations, screened nearly 2,000 children for malnutrition and provided more than 3,400 pediatric consultations.
Prenatal and pediatric care are critical for impoverished communities like Bamyan, but standard medical care and regular check-ups are just as critical for rural communities like this. Standard health care essentials like access to vaccines, nutrition information, family planning services and basic health screenings were previously out of reach for many Afghans living in rural villages scattered across Bamyan’s vast and mountainous region. These new clinics in Bamyan are bridging the health care gap for rural residents like Rohida.
Rohida, a middle-aged woman in Afghanistan’s Bamyan province, visited a clinic close to her hometown in Jalmish to treat her high blood pressure. Rohida commented, “Before, we had no place to go. Sometimes, it feels like women have been forgotten around here. I’m happy that someone remembered us.”
– Ann-Jinette Hess