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CARE provides lifesaving mobile healthcare to vulnerable Afghans

Doctor writes notes while mother holds child

Belqees brought her six-month-old to this mobile health clinic in Nahr-e-abdullah. The clinic visits this village weekly, providing health services to more than 200 families each time. Photos: Mirwais Nasery/CARE

Belqees brought her six-month-old to this mobile health clinic in Nahr-e-abdullah. The clinic visits this village weekly, providing health services to more than 200 families each time. Photos: Mirwais Nasery/CARE

“I am eight months pregnant, but this is the first time I'm seeing a doctor,” said Belqees*, 28, at a CARE mobile health clinic in Balkh province, northern Afghanistan. Like many women, Belqees either lives too far from a public hospital or cannot afford the transportation costs, and the cost of attending a private clinic puts that option out of reach

Around 80 to 100 patients attend the weekly mobile health clinic in this remote village, most of whom would otherwise not be able to access the medical care they need.  Along with a doctor, CARE’s mobile clinics have a midwife, vaccinator, nutrition counsellor, and a psychosocial worker.

“My husband is a day laborer, but he hasn’t found work since the beginning of winter,” said Jamila, 28. “He had a motorcycle accident and has had mental health problems since then. On rare cases, our neighbors help us with bread and flour. When I can, I wash clothes for them to earn money to feed my children, despite it being painful due to an arm injury I have. I haven’t seen a doctor about my arm because I can’t afford the treatment.

“I have two children, Shahnaz, 3, and Razia, 2, and they have both suffered from malnutrition since they were born. We haven’t been able to take care of them properly because we can’t afford it. Since CARE started helping us with nutrition packages, my children’s health condition has improved. If CARE hadn’t helped us, their health would have kept getting worse.”

Doctor examining baby with a stethoscope
Karima, 26, brings her seven-month-old baby to the mobile clinic in Nahr-e-abdullah village. The child has been suffering from chest and armpit disease for some time now. After the examination, the doctor advises Karima to transfer the infant to the closest specialized hospital in Mazar-e-Sharif. In special cases – when children and mothers have serious illnesses, and it is not possible to treat them in mobile health clinics – CARE provides cash assistance up to 4,000 Afghans for treatment in specialized hospitals.

In many areas, the only option

In a mountainous village of 4,000 houses in Kabul province, CARE is the only organization providing health services – including medicines, maternal health and nutrition services – to residents, in particular to women and girls, through its weekly mobile health clinics. Unemployment, poverty, lack of schools, and mental health issues are the main challenges in the area.

“Each time I come here, I see between 100 and 150 patients in a day,” said Dr. Shamsur Rahman, a CARE physician. “Flu, cough, and other winter-related diseases, like lung problems, and diarrhea, are the most common problems in this village. Women and children are the most vulnerable and are in dire need. There are no physical health centers here.

“CARE is the only organization that provides health services for this community. We also provide free medicine, whereas in public health centers, medication must be paid for, and often, people simply cannot afford it.”

Over the past six months CARE Afghanistan has supported 61,592 people – 65 percent of them women and girls – with health services in Ghazni, Herat, Balkh, Kabul, and Khost provinces. The services include primary health care, maternal health, nutrition support, referrals to specialized facilities for gender-based violence cases, COVID education, and psychosocial support services. In addition, CARE has distributed emergency medicines, medical supplies, and equipment to health facilities.

Since the August 2021 change in government, medicine and equipment shortages, plus unpaid salaries for health workers, have put enormous additional strain on an already weak health system. An estimated six million people have no access, or insufficient access, to healthcare in Afghanistan, and women and children pay the heaviest price. CARE is urging the international community to step up their commitment to enable Afghanistan’s most vulnerable people to access critical health services.

* All names changed.

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