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MSF Expands Relief Programs Throughout Afghanistan
January 23, 2002
More than 80 international staff and over 400 national staff from Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontierès (MSF) are now operating relief programs throughout Afghanistan from bases in six cities—Herat, Mazar-i-Sharif, Taloqan, Faizabad, Kabul, and Jalalabad.
The MSF teams are addressing the health needs of a population that has endured years of conflict, severe drought, and instability. In and around Herat, MSF works in two of the country's largest camps for displaced people. MSF has increased its supplementary and therapeutic feeding centers to care for thousands of seriously malnourished children while also vaccinating children against measles. MSF is also supporting the pediatric ward of the hospital in Herat.
In Mazar-i-Sharif and Sar-i-Pol, the nutritional situation has deteriorated. A recent MSF survey found that nearly 1 out of 7 children under five is malnourished. MSF opened four more feeding centers in the area, while still seeing a substantial increase in the number of severely malnourished children coming to the feeding centers in Faryab province. Further east, in and around Taloqan, MSF is providing the regional hospital with medicines and personnel, runs mobile clinics in Bangi, and supports clinics in Khanabad. Medical assessment teams also travel to Kunduz.
In Faizabad, MSF teams are providing vital support to the main hospital. They are also working in health clinics in the towns of Baharak and Ishkashim. In Kabul, MSF supports another hospital and three clinics, as they do in Gulbuhar in the Panjsher Valley. Teams are also assisting the displaced population in Jalalabad deal with the onset of winter.
MSF will continue expanding its operations to reach people in the outlying regions and more isolated parts of the country.
MSF's multinational staff of 14 working from the ancient city of Herat consists of personnel from Ethiopia, Canada, Japan and Europe. This is in addition to a national staff of nearly 320. In the pediatric ward of Herat Hospital, MSF personnel has treated more than 150 children for problems ranging from Acute Respiratory Infections to Meninigitis or Typhoid. MSF is also running a therapeutic feeding center.
Situated in a mountain-ringed valley just west of the ancient city of Herat, Mazlakh is the country's largest camp for internally displaced persons (IDP), with a population topping 150,000. People fleeing months of bombings and years of drought continued streaming in. In the last week of December, MSF provided basic health care to more than 10,000 new arrivals, vaccinated over 4,000 children for measles, and started therapeutic feeding centers for 1,500 acutely malnourished children.
Serious safety concerns have arisen in the camps, with armed factions making indiscrimate arrests and commiting robberies. MSF worries that this atmosphere of heightened insecurity and fear is preventing women from taking their children to feeding centers. While MSF is trying to adapt its programs to be more effective in responding to the situation, they are also pressing officials to establish a more secure environment.
At Shaydayee camp, just east of Herat, 500 children receive treatment at MSF therapeutic feeding centers, while clinics perform nearly 700 consultations a week. Health education programs focused on disease prevention round out the services provided to the nearly 20,000 IDPs living here. And north of Herat, in Bala Morghab, MSF teams are going from village to village conducting nutritional surveys and distributing two-month supplies to nearly 10,000 people.
As media attention has shifted to the political machinations in Kabul, families are trying to return to their homes in the central Afghan province of Bamyan, at the foot of the Hindukush mountains. MSF continues to try and meet the needs of a vulnerable populace in this former front-line district. Even before the recent fighting, years of drought and political instability made this region one of Afghanistan's poorest.
MSF is providing nearly 88,000 with basic health care. Reports of mine and unexploded ordnance casualties continue to come in as MSF supports Bamyan Hospital with supplies and personnel. An MSF clinic has opened in Do Ab, and nutritional programs are set to begin in Seighan. MSF mobile clinics are operating throughout Folady and Dokani, two remote areas of the district. Another mobile clinic will be in service in Shaidan district as soon as the roads have been de-mined. In the coming weeks, MSF hopes to administer more than 25,000 measles vaccines, distribute vitamin A, and conduct nutritional surveys.
In the nearby district of Chagcharan, an MSF team conducted a nutritional survey, finding that the situation, while precarious, is not as catastrophic as they feared. Necessary humanitarian aid arrives, and because of the surprisingly resilient coping mechanisms of the people, the team decided that there was not an urgent need for emergency intervention by MSF.