October 9, 2009
Afghanistan 2009 © Erwin Vantland /MSF
By 11:30am most patients in Ahmed Shah Baba hospital, in eastern Kabul, have been seen. They arrive early in the morning, receive their consultations and treatment, and return home before the hottest part of the day begins. Just before the staff take their lunch break, there is one patient left in the emergency room, and two pregnant women in the maternity ward. Only the vaccination room and its waiting area are still bustling with women in bright blue burkas and their young children. The register shows that the staff have already vaccinated 150 children today.
"We can only conclude that things are getting worse. Insecurity is increasing, health care is faltering. And as always, it’s the ordinary people who pay the price."
Ahmed Shah Baba is a sprawling neighborhood, and it’s growing fast. When MSF stopped working here in 2004, its population was approximately 80,000. Today nobody knows, but even the most conservative commentators estimate that the figure has doubled or tripled. People come from Jalalabad, and even refugees are returning from across the border in Pakistan. Most hope to find work in Kabul, where foreign aid is pouring into Afghanistan, but many are disappointed and find high jobless rates.
Boosting emergency care capabilities
MSF is helping make the clinic - gradually developing as a district hospital - into a fully functional emergency unit. Until today, many patients requiring emergency care needed to be transported to other health centers, at least one hour away. MSF will boost the current facilities, add an operating theater and an in-patient department where people stay overnight under medical observation, and generally work to improve the quality of care provided and drugs administered.
No guns, no fees allowed
A ‘no weapons allowed’ policy is in effect in the hospital. This morning a policeman was in the emergency ward carrying his gun and had to be informed of the policy by Dr. Sattar, the hospital director. Today nine guards are receiving their first training, including instructions on how to convince all visitors to leave weapons behind at the entrance. “That rule applies to policemen and military, but equally to members of ISAF,” explains Kaczmarczyk, referring to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.
© 2013 Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)