Afghanistan: MSF concludes a five-week emergency earthquake response

MSF team in Bermal

Afghanistan 2022 © MSF

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams in eastern Afghanistan have concluded a five-week emergency response to the earthquake that shook Khost and Paktika provinces on June 21, 2022. The last MSF team left Paktika’s remote Bermal district on July 28, 2022, as other medical organizations arrived to continue providing care. Medical care in Bermal is limited, so MSF set up a temporary clinic to provided trauma care and other medical care to the community affected by the earthquake. In five weeks, MSF teams treated more than 1,380 patients.  

The 5.9 magnitude earthquake killed more than 1,000 people, injured more than 2,000 people, and destroyed or severely damaged thousands of homes. Khost’s Spera district and Paktika’s Gayan and Bermal districts were the worst affected.  On June 23, MSF sent emergency response teams from Kabul and Khost to the region to assess the medical needs and donate tents and medical equipment. 

“On our arrival we saw that the situation was precarious,” said Dr. Taufeeq, part of MSF’s earthquake intervention team. “Families and communities had lost almost everything, and they were living under the open sky. We realized that the closest health care facilities were almost 150 kilometres [about 93 miles] away.”  

On June 24, MSF began providing care to stabilize patients with trauma injuries before they were referred elsewhere for further care. MSF also provided trauma care, outpatient, and inpatient care. Some female staff members from MSF’s maternity hospital in Khost were transferred to Bermal to provide care to female patients. MSF shipped trucks of medical, logistic, and water and sanitation materials from Kabul. At the beginning of the intervention, MSF saw an increasing number of people coming to the clinic with acute watery diarrhea, so the team set up isolation tents nearby.  

“Within the first 72 hours we were able to provide basic healthcare and trauma care to the affected population,” said Gaetan Drossart, Afghanistan country representative. “The decision to close our activities after a few weeks was [made] given the emergency nature of our response and the fact that other organizations were increasing their activities in Bermal. But access to health care in the area needs to be improved in a longer-term, sustainable way.”  

In mid-July, MSF midwives in the Lawara area of Bermal assisted the delivery of healthy twin girls. According to their mother, as maternity care is difficult to access in Bermal, without the assistance of MSF, she would have had to travel four hours to get the care she needed. It would have cost her 7,000 afghani [about $80 U.S.] “I am very happy for my daughters,” she said, “we are all doing fine”.   

MSF teams currently work in six provinces in Afghanistan. MSF teams in Lashkar Gah, Kunduz, Heart Kandahar, Khost, and Kabul provide a range of services including maternity, malnutrition, and trauma care, and treatment for diseases such as tuberculosis and measles.