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Afghanistan

OUR COVID-19 RESPONSE IN AFGHANISTAN

MSF is supporting the Ministry of Health and regional health authorities in their COVID-19 response in several locations around Afghanistan.     

Kabul, the capital, has surpassed Herat as the outbreak’s epicentre in Afghanistan, but as testing is still limited it is difficult to determine the true scale of the spread. We have completed preparedness activities in the Afghanistan-Japan Hospital, the designated COVID-19 referral hospital, with a focus on training, reorganisation of patient flow, and triage. Following the attack on Dasht-e-Barchi on 12 May however, our teams have withdrawn from this support.   

In the COVID-19 treatment centre in Herat, MSF’s support has focused on infection prevention and control, while also launching outreach activities in camps for internally displaced people. In late June we opened a new 32-bed COVID-19 treatment centre in Gazer Ga hospital, which allows our teams to care for severe COVID-19 patients and relieve the pressure on existing, overwhelmed treatment centres.

In Lashkar Gah, MSF is providing technical support for management of the COVID-19 facility set up in Malika Suraya hospital.  

In Kunduz, wound care clinic activities have been temporarily suspended, as have the MSF activities west of the city in the small stabilisation clinic in Chardara district. Some construction activities in our various projects have been put on hold. We are collaborating with Kunduz Regional Hospital to provide infection prevention and control training to ensure better protection of their frontline medical and support staff.

In MSF projects around the country, infection prevention and control and all other necessary preventive measures have been implemented to protect against transmission inside our facilities. 

 

Closed COVID-19 projects in Afghanistan

Following the attack on Dasht-e-Barchi hospital on 12 May, our teams have withdrawn from the Afghanistan-Japan Hospital, the designated COVID-19 referral hospital in Kabul. During our time at the centre, our staff completed preparedness activities with hospital staff, with a focus on training, reorganisation of patient flow, and triage.

 

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Right now, Médecins Sans Frontières is providing much needed support and medical care in over 30 countries to counter the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
Our teams are also gearing up to confront potential outbreaks in the hundreds of areas we were already working before the pandemic struck. We are deploying medical staff, sending supplies and applying nearly 50 years of experience fighting epidemics to protect the most vulnerable and save lives.
 
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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. 

Kunduz Hospital After the Attack

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