Exclusive: Women in majority of the provinces have no access to healthcare

KABUL (SW) – The findings of Salam Watandar surveys conducted in 17 provinces of the country show that women in 13 of the provinces have problems accessing health services.

These provinces include Kabul, Logar, Panjshir, Kapisa, Samangan, Baghlan, Badakhshan, Parwan, Sar-e-Pol, Bamyan, Daikundi, Kunduz and Nimroz.

Health officials in eight provinces (Kabul, Logar, Panjshir, Kapisa, Samangan, Baghlan, Badakhshan and Parwan) confirm this issue and say that the lack of female doctors and medical equipment is one of the main reasons for this problem.

Malali Rahim Faizi, the head of Malali hospital, says that this hospital is facing a shortage of female doctors and its medical equipment is also small. “When the number of patients increases, we also treat them in our hallways,” she said. “We also need specialists and we need a number of staff to help us in the internal and surgical department.”

Shafiq Hamdard, head of Badakhshan provincial hospital, said that this hospital is facing a shortage of women and children specialists. He added: “We need to have female surgeons, pediatricians, but unfortunately we don’t have female doctors in these departments. Unfortunately, no one has been introduced in these mentioned sections. Unfortunately, we do not have female staff in these departments at all.”

Shahwali Ahmadzai, the director of Baghlan provincial hospital, said that due to the lack of female specialists, each doctor examines 20 to 35 patients a day. He added: “We are facing a shortage of personnel. For example, one staff member should see five patients only, but we have assigned one doctor to see approximately 20 to 35 patients.”

Meanwhile, Golsalam Baraki, the head of Naib Aminullah Khan hospital in Logar; Asadollah Nejat, head of public health department in Panjshir; Musa Taha, head of Kapisa public health; Seyed Osman Hamidi, director of Samangan provincial hospital and Abdul Khalil Heydari, chief physician at 100-bed specialized hospital in Parwan, pointed to the same issues about lack of female doctors and lack of medical equipment in their provinces. They said that the government and aid organizations need to pay attention in this regard.

On the other hand, Abdul Qahar Ahmadi, head of public health in Takhar; Nurullah Habibi, head of Ghazni provincial hospital; Mohammad Sadiq Samsour, head of Laghman provincial hospital and chief physician at Paktia regional hospital, said that they have no problem in providing health services for women.

We tried to get the views of the health officials of Sar-e-Pol, Bamyan, Daikundi, Kunduz and Nimroz provinces in this regard, but they refused to answer in this regard.

However, the findings of Salam Watandar, which were obtained from interviews with 30 patients and residents in 17 provinces, show that women in 13 provinces are dissatisfied with the provision of health services, and the residents of four other provinces, including Ghazni, Laghman, Takhar and Paktia are relatively satisfied with the provision of health services for women.

However, the residents of Kabul, Badakhshan, Baghlan, Panjshir, Samangan, Kapisa, Parwan, Logar, Nimroz, Sar-e-Pol, Kunduz, Bamyan and Daikundi complained about the provision of health services for women.

Meanwhile, Salam Watandar’s findings from interviews with 15 women and girls in Kabul show that the provision of preventive services for women has decreased. They said that in the past, through girls’ schools and door-to-door campaigns, they received iron pills and anti-tetanus vaccines, but after the developments two years ago and the closure of girls’ schools, house-to-house campaigns have not been launched for them, which has reduced their access to preventive services.

A number of doctors also confirmed the decrease in the provision of health services for women and say that the decrease in women’s access to health services has caused an increase in maternal mortality.

Najm al-Sama Shafajo, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Kabul, said: “Women’s access to health services is less, because maternal mortality has increased in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, Afghanistan has the highest death rate in Asian countries. It is clear from this that access to health services is low, health personnel are low.”

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) also confirms the limited access of women to health services in the country. In an interview with Salam Watandar, Homayoun Hammet, the deputy of the health department at this institution, said: “In most provinces, the supply of health services is insufficient. Lack of medicine and lack of health personnel is a challenge, especially in remote areas. Faraway places, in cases that are difficult for health personnel, they let us find them, especially female personnel.”

At the same time, Sharafzaman Amarkhil, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Public Health, confirming the lack of health personnel in Afghanistan, said that to address this challenge, they plan to establish 600 more public hospitals across the country. According to him, the distribution of blood booster pills for women and the campaigns for implementing the anti-tetanus vaccine are related to external projects and colleagues of the Ministry of Public Health, which are often suspended.

He said: “We don’t only need experts in the child birth department, but we need female doctors in the internal medicine department, we need women in the surgery department, and we are needed in other different departments. Our plan is to build a new hospital. In the next year, God willing, 600 new hospitals will be built. Our goal is to reduce the number of patients in hospitals.”