A project to provide lifesaving healthcare in response to the humanitarian protracted crisis.
To tackle the precarious humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and a lack of access to healthcare, EMERGENCY has been implementing a project which has been active since August 2021 and is co-funded by the European Union department for EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations, with the aim of guaranteeing access to adequate medical assistance, in particular for war-wounded people, pregnant and lactating women, and children.
Last year’s escalation of conflict in Afghanistan and the resulting disruption has exacerbated humanitarian needs and led to the further deterioration of a situation that was already extremely difficult. The country is currently facing economic collapse and a humanitarian crisis. This is taking place in a context where the population has already borne the brunt of 40 years of war, recurrent natural disasters, chronic poverty, drought, and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Even before this current crisis, some 18 million people, around half the population, depended on emergency aid to meet their basic needs, including healthcare, according to the United Nations. Infant, under-five, and maternal mortality rates are amongst the highest in the world. Moreover, women and girls have continued to be disproportionately impacted by the conflict and its consequences.
One of the main consequences of the conflict are the number of casualties. The data on admissions to EMERGENCY’s facilities confirm the trend already highlighted in reports by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). From 2009 to 2021, UNAMA recorded a total of 75,858 injured civilians. In the same period, 60,958 patients with war injuries were admitted to EMERGENCY’s three Surgical Centres in Anabah, Kabul and Lashkar-Gah.
But casualties are not the only consequence of war. There are also economic and social factors, with deepening social stigma of the most vulnerable, increasing the risks of violations, abuse and exploitation.
“The country’s healthcare system was brought to its knees long ago. Afghanistan has over 40 years of conflict behind it and its health sector has been one of the casualties. Unable to pay wages and missing the many specialist doctors who have fled abroad, medical facilities are in total disarray. Many of them have now closed, above all in the countryside, where most Afghans live. The people in need of treatment are mostly in the cities, where the struggling public hospitals get nearer to closing every day,” says Marco Puntin, EMERGENCY Field Operations Department.
“The EU’s priorities remain to reduce the morbidity and mortality rate in Afghanistan by providing vital, free-of-charge and specialised healthcare to people living in areas where these services have been severely disrupted by conflict,” said Felicity Butterly, an EU humanitarian expert in Afghanistan. “Lifesaving programmes form a critical part of the EU’s support to the broader healthcare infrastructure in Afghanistan.”
Healthcare at EMERGENCY Surgical Centres in Lashkar-Gah, Kabul and Anabah, and at the Anabah Maternity and Paediatric Centre will be ensured through the delivery of qualified emergency, trauma, reproductive health, and paediatric services available 24/7, and the provision of comprehensive hospital care.
Furthermore, quality services will be also provided in hard to reach and under-served areas of the South, South-eastern, Eastern, Central and North-eastern regions of Afghanistan by a lifesaving stabilisation and referral system. The system allows patients to be stabilised and then referred from 35 First Aid Posts (FAPs) and Primary Healthcare Centres run by EMERGENCY across the country, with its three main hospital sites in Anabah, Kabul and Lashkar-Gah then able to provide comprehensive hospital care.
From the beginning of the project up to the end of December EMERGENCY has provided over 4,600 surgical hospitalisations, nearly 145,000 primary healthcare consultations, and over 1,700 livebirths attended by skilled health personnel.
EMERGENCY is an independent, non-governmental organisation founded in Italy in 1994 to provide free, high-quality medical and surgical treatment to victims of war, landmines and poverty. EMERGENCY has been present in Afghanistan since 1999 with two Surgical Centres for War Victims in Kabul and Lashkar-Gah, a Surgical & Paediatric Centre and a Maternity Centre in Anabah, Panjshir Valley, and a network of First Aid Posts. In the first 10 months of 2021, EMERGENCY’s hospitals admitted 4,737 war victims. This represents a 125% increase compared to 2011, when the war had already been ongoing for 10 years.
The European Union and its Member States are the world’s leading donor of humanitarian aid. Humanitarian assistance and the provision of primary healthcare are an expression of European solidarity with people in need all around the world. It aims to save lives, prevent and alleviate human suffering, and safeguard the integrity and human dignity of populations affected by natural disasters and man-made crises. Through its Civil Protection and Humanitarian aid Operations department, the European Union helps millions of victims of conflict and disasters every year. With headquarters in Brussels and a global network of field offices, the EU provides assistance to the most vulnerable people on the basis of humanitarian needs.