December 10, 2009
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has started to work again in Afghanistan after an absence of five years. MSF General Director Christopher Stokes, has extensive work experience in the country, and he has recently been back to take stock of the MSF projects.
MSF has just started working in the only public general hospital still functioning in Helmand, in the provincial capital Lashkargah. This is a hospital that has, over the last few years, been the recipient of a great deal of overseas aid. Yet when I walked through the different wards, what I found most striking was the absence of patients. Generally only a third of beds are occupied. On the morning of our visit, we counted 40 patients for 124 beds.
Afghanistan 2009 © Erwin Vantland/MSF
While the hospital may not be operating to its capacity, it is nevertheless full of donations of sophisticated medical equipment. Digital x-ray machines from Europe and China, laboratory machines, surgical equipment and scialytic lamps—many still unpacked—are piled up in the basement. They were donated by governments, through the provincial reconstruction teams of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) or via direct bilateral aid. Usually with little explanation or instruction.
© 2013 Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)