22-year-old Sharifa is one of the thousands of Afghan mothers struggling to overcome the hurdles that are posed by a healthcare system weakened by decades of war, poor facilities, and social and cultural barriers that are difficult to break.
We wanted to provide constant support for war victims, even in areas that were practically unreachable, in the remotest villages worst hit by the conflict in Afghanistan. We wanted to meet their needs and be able to transfer them to our facilities after fighting had caused emergencies.
It was this concept that spawned our network of First Aid Posts (FAPs) and Primary Healthcare Centres in Afghanistan.
These would be stabilisation points across the country, giving first aid to patients and transferring them when necessary to our hospitals via a 24/7 ambulance service.
The first was in Gulbahar, 70 km north of Kabul, in December 1999.
Twenty years have passed since that first FAP opened. Today, we have 45 across Afghanistan.
The most recent opened in early October, in the district of Nad Ali, Helmand province. Like most of Helmand’s districts, Nad Ali is split between government and opposition forces, and many civilians get caught up in armed clashes. Medical services are few and far between.
“The distance stops wounded people getting to hospital, and medical facilities are practically non-existent. A lot of people are dying as a result, because they can’t get treatment.” say the group of elders in Nad Ali. We chose to extend our network by opening the FAP here after hearing from them what it was like in the area. Giacomo, a logician at the hospital in Lashkar-Gah, tells us exactly what the elders said at one of their meetings: “We need you.”
With first aid, visiting rooms, a clinic and lavatories, bit by bit we have completed the facility and started work here with our local staff.
One of our first patients at the facility was a man we will call ‘B’, who had stepped on a mine on his way to the mosque for morning prayers. He was rescued by his uncle, who heard the explosion from his house and brought him to our FAP for first aid. His legs, genitals, arms and face were all wounded. We took him to our hospital in Lashkar-Gah for surgery.
“‘B’ needed a range of surgery to recover,’ says Giada, our nurse. ‘Unfortunately, we also had to amputate his left leg. He’s only twenty-five, but accidents like this are the shared fate of a lot of people. It will be some time before he recovers, but we will help him for as long as he needs us.’
So far, we have treated more than 5 million patients at our First Aid Posts (FAPs).