Afghan Health Care
In Afghanistan, a woman dies every two hours due to pregnancy related problems. On top of that, each year 1 in 10 children die before reaching the age of five. Afghanistan has one of the highest child and maternal mortality rates worldwide. A large reason for this is the turmoil the country has been experiencing in the last few decades.

Many of Afghanistan’s citizens are refugees and its infrastructure and economy have been severely devastated because of the chronic instability and conflict that it has plagued the region in recent years. Now forming a resurgent force in the Southern and Eastern parts of the country, supporters of the tightly-strung Islamic movement have re-grouped since the fall of the Taliban administration in 2001. The government has been struggling to extend its authority to enhance national unity beyond the capital of Kabul. Despite its mountainous, landlocked terrain, Afghanistan has been fought over for a long time because of its strategic position between India, Central Asia, and the Middle East.

Despite many years of aid, Afghan health care is still extremely limited because of the high casualty rates from violence. The Afghan health care system is still functioning very poorly, but officials are attempting to conceal information on the topic. As Afghanistan is the 15th least developed country in the world, it is a struggle for much of the population just to access basic care. Research from the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) shows just how grave and deadly it is for these people to seek medical help.

When sick, many citizens have to go past the public health facilities nearest to them because of conflict, causing them to travel much greater distances for help. Some people travel 50 miles or more, going through security checkpoints and military roadblocks just to be treated. Once they get to the health facilities that they actually can manage to visit, there is sometimes a shortage of medicine, experienced staff and/or electricity. Additionally, some hospitals are facing high amounts of debt and are unable to pay for better facilities and treatments.

Often times, people wait to go to the hospital until their condition has gotten extremely bad because they do not want to risk making the trek for something that is not that severe.  Some people also wait all night to take their ill and dying relatives to the hospital because they were so worried about their safeties while travelling overnight. According to the MSF, one in five of their patients had someone close to them die in the last year as a result of them not being able to acquire medical care. On the journeys of those who were fortunate enough to make it to the hospitals, 40% experienced land mines, fighting, military checkpoints or harassment.

However, there has been a lot of progress in the country with over 60% of citizens now living within an hour walk to their nearest health clinic (a significant increase from the 9% in 2002). Mortality rates are also being lowered with the child mortality rate having decreased by 62% and the infant mortality rate by 57%. Maternal mortality rates have also lowered substantially because of the increase in trained professionals. The international interest in Afghanistan is dwindling, meaning they are facing less aid, even though the country still has a long road of development to come.

– Kenneth W. Kliesner

Sources: BBC, USAID, BBC
Photo: TIME