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Afghanistan

As a result of conflict and chronic instability, many of Afghanistan’s 31 million people are refugees, or have been internally displaced.

Despite deadly attacks on our staff and hospitals, Médecins Sans Frontières has been working in Afghanistan since 1980, providing emergency surgical care, responding to conflict and natural disasters, and treating people cut off from healthcare.

MSF focuses on emergency, paediatric, and maternal healthcare in Afghanistan, which has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. 

Airstrike on MSF hospital in Kunduz 

In October 2015, our Kunduz trauma centre - the only facility of its kind in northeast Afghanistan - was destroyed in a US military airstrike.  Forty-two people were killed, including 14 MSF staff, and thousands were left without access to medical care. 

© Andrew Quilty

Following a year and a half of negotiations regarding the neutrality of medical care with all parties to the conflict we finally obtained commitments that our staff and patients would be respected, and care could be provided to everyone in need, regardless of their ethnicity, political beliefs or allegiances.

MSF operations restarted in July 2017 with the opening of an outpatient clinic for stable patients with minor burns, wounds from previous surgical interventions, minor trauma or chronic non-communicable diseases. MSF continues to run a small stabilisation clinic in Chardara district outside the city. 

A decade earlier in 2004, the MSF team withdrew from Afghanistan following the killing of five MSF aid workers in a deliberate attack when a clearly marked MSF vehicle was ambushed. It was the first time MSF had pulled-out from any country since being founded.

We returned to Afghanistan in 2009. 

 

Supporting Local Afghan Hospitals 

The capital Kabul has experienced a massive population growth, and the city’s public health services cannot fulfil the medical needs. People continue arrive in the city from other parts of the country, fleeing insecurity or searching for economic opportunities. 

We support the Ministry of Public Health to deliver outpatient and inpatient care at Ahmad Shah Baba district hospital in east Kabul, with a focus on maternal health and emergency services.

The team also provides paediatric care, treatment for malnutrition, family planning, health promotion and vaccinations, and supports the hospital’s laboratory, X-ray services and tuberculosis (TB) treatment program. 

In Helmand province, MSF has a team in the capital of Lashkar Gah. One of the areas most affected by active conflict and insecurity, and one of only three referral hospitals in southern Afghanistan, admissions often exceed capacity.

By providing free, high quality maternal and neonatal healthcare in four hospitals in Kabul, Helmand and Khost provinces, we aim to help reduce death and sickness in mothers and their newborns. Training medical staff is an integral and important part of our projects.

We collaborate with the Ministry of Public Health to provide around-the-clock care at the only facility for emergency, Dasht-e-Barchi hospital, running the labour and delivery rooms, an operating theatre for caesarean sections and other complicated deliveries, a recovery room, a 30-bed maternity unit and a 20-bed neonatal unit. The team is aiming to increase referrals for simple deliveries, in order to focus on complicated cases and maintain a high quality of care.

In Kandahar, MSF runs an innovative drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) program, which reduces the duration of treatment from the usual 20 months to only nine. The shorter treatment produces fewer side effects and improves the patients’ quality of life. The project has a laboratory and facilities to accommodate patients during their treatment in Kandahar. MSF also provides support to Mirwais regional hospital, and organises training for other facilities to improve detection of TB, including drug-sensitive cases. 

Find out more about Afghanistan