Afghanistan: Support for women and children facing conflict and poverty

15 Mar 2021

After 19 years of active conflict in Afghanistan, people’s humanitarian needs are not being met and women and children are disproportionately affected. Médecins Sans Frontières has worked in Boost Hospital in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan, since 2009, supporting the Ministry of Health with essential healthcare including maternity, neonatal and paediatric services. 


A doctor examines a newborn in the neonatal intensive care unit of Boost Hospital, in Lashkar Gah city. It is the only referral hospital in Helmand province, and one of only three in southern Afghanistan. © Andrew Quilty.


Held by his mother in the hospital’s female observation ward, Imran is suffering from a chest infection. © Andrew Quilty.  


An emergency room (ER) nurse speaks to patients in the women's triage ward. In October 2020 there were heavy clashes in and around Lashkar Gah, and Boost Hospital supported treatment of the injured when the city’s main trauma hospital became overwhelmed within 24 hours. The number of patients presenting to the ER fell, suggesting people with non-conflict related conditions could not reach the hospital. © Andrew Quilty.  


Staff look at patient notes in the paediatric intensive care unit. Our teams treated over 87,000 children in Boost hospital in 2019 including nearly 4,000 for severe acute malnutrition, one of the main causes of child mortality in Helmand province. © Andrew Quilty.  


A mother watches over her newborn in the neonatal intensive care unit. In Helmand, many pregnant women choose to give birth at home rather than risk being caught in conflict on the way to health clinics, or because they cannot afford adequate obstetric care or transport to reach it. Those who experience complications often do not reach care until very late. © Andrew Quilty.  


Paediatrician Dr Lia examines a newborn in the neonatal intensive care unit. © Andrew Quilty.


Nurse Abdullah (left) works with a colleague in the neonatal intensive care unit. © Andrew Quilty.  

Andrew Quilty is an Australian photojournalist who has been based in Afghanistan since 2013. His work in Afghanistan has been recognised with several awards, including a Gold Walkley in 2016.