Afghanistan: Many are wounded during conflict in Helmand province, while fewer children can access care

White flag with red logo of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) against sunny blue sky

© Valérie Batselaere/MSF

May 5, 2021—Fighting around Lashkar Gah city, Helmand province, increased significantly on May 3. After the city's trauma hospital became overwhelmed, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) treated 53 war-wounded patients at Boost Provincial Hospital on May 3 and 4, including an eight-year-old girl.

"MSF teams in the emergency room and operating theaters have treated people for injuries caused by bullets and shrapnel," said Sarah Leahy, MSF project coordinator at Boost provincial hospital.

Due to the lack of access to primary health care in many areas around Lashkar Gah, Boost Provincial Hospital is a vital resource for people in need of medical services, including surgery, pediatric and maternal care and treatment for malnutrition.

Alarmingly, patients and staff say that access routes to the city are blocked, and MSF has seen a decrease in the number of admissions of children and pregnant women. Some families may be afraid to attempt to reach the hospital due to the conflict, even if their children are very sick. MSF calls on all parties to allow everyone access to medical care.

"Yesterday we saw a lot of war-wounded, but the emergency room still had 20 percent fewer patients than normal," said Masood Khan MSF's emergency room supervisor. "Most of the people we normally treat, such as children under five, are staying at home."

In 2020 at Boost Provincial Hospital, MSF teams performed more than 110,000 emergency room consultations, assisted over 17,800 births, and performed over 4,900 surgical interventions. Over 2,100 children were admitted to the inpatient feeding center for severe acute malnutrition, one of the main causes of child mortality in the province.