UNCERTAINTY IN AFGHANISTAN
Even as uncertainty about the future grips the nation, our staff throughout the country remains committed to providing lifesaving medical services and training. You can help.
The challenges and our response
International Medical Corps was established in 1984 by volunteer doctors and nurses to address the critical need for medical care in war-torn Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation. Over the decades, in the face of continued conflict, we have remained, delivering medical care, healthcare-related services and training, as Afghanistan remains one of the world’s most complex humanitarian emergencies.
Today in Afghanistan, 18 million people—a number that equals roughly half the population and includes about 10 million children—rely on humanitarian assistance for their survival. One-third are food-insecure, and more than half of all children under 5 are at risk of acute malnutrition. The country has some of the world’s highest infant, child and maternal mortality rates, due to a widespread lack of access to adequate healthcare and nutrition. A severe drought—the second in four years—will make the current situation even worse.
As of 2020, an estimated 3.5 million Afghans were displaced within their own country—and that number has only grown since then, with at least 550,000 additional people internally displaced since January 2021, due to the battle for control of the government. In addition to political unrest, recurring natural hazards—such as avalanches, earthquakes, flooding and landslides—exacerbate the situation. The combination of the volatile security situation and frequent natural disasters make it difficult to reach populations in need.
In the midst of these problems, health facilities remain a common target of violence, resulting in the suspension of services in a number of locations. Yet our staff—the vast majority of whom are hired locally—continue working throughout the country to improve the quality of life and health status of those we serve by providing medical services and training.
Emergency Response & Preparedness
International Medical Corps builds sustainable response capacity in communities and among frontline emergency responders. We work with communities to reduce their risk exposure to natural hazards, such as avalanches and landslides, and help them set up emergency response systems that can be rolled out when disasters do strike. This includes training Afghans at the local and district levels to pre-position, mobilize and distribute emergency-relief and shelter supplies, and equipping people to provide first-aid and basic trauma care. We help to establish community emergency response teams and early-alert systems, and work with hospitals, schools, and the provincial and national Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority to help them be prepared when disasters strike.
Emergency & Primary Healthcare
International Medical Corps is providing lifesaving emergency healthcare services to tens of thousands of people who have been affected by Afghanistan’s ongoing conflict. This includes trauma care, primary healthcare, maternal and newborn healthcare, mental health care, prevention and treatment of communicable diseases, and other services.
International Medical Corps is implementing a relief program for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the four eastern provinces of Nuristan, Kunar, Laghman and Nangarhar. We also use mobile health units, fixed centres and first-aid trauma posts (FATPs) to provide primary and community health and lifesaving medical services in Kunar, Nuristan and Paktika provinces. In 2020, we provided 39,793 health consultations and emergency medical services to 5,873 people affected by conflict. We also provided reproductive health services to 2,378 people, including antenatal care, delivery assistance, postnatal care and family planning.
Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) Programs
Barely a quarter of Afghanistan’s population is estimated to have access to sanitation facilities—a reality that creates fertile ground for outbreaks of disease. This is especially true among populations that have been uprooted from their homes by conflict or natural disaster. We use an approach known as community-led total sanitation, which mobilizes communities to end open defecation by focusing on behaviour change. Our WASH teams work closely with communities to educate them on the risks of open defecation, enabling them to educate others. We do this by forming family health action groups, which work with community health workers to foster behaviour change around sanitation and hygiene at the household level.
We also provide safe drinking water, hygiene supplies and sanitation facilities to Afghan IDPs, returnees, host communities and refugees crossing from Pakistan into the Torkham, Achin and Batikot districts of Nangarhar province, and the Barmal district of Paktika province. In 2020, we provided more than 222,141 people with hygiene-awareness instructions, built 20 boreholes and two water supply networks, and trained 100 WASH committee members on infection prevention and control (IPC) measures. We also integrated COVID-19 awareness into our programming, reaching 676,750 people with awareness messaging and training 364 community health workers and 160 community hygiene promoters.
Gender-Based Violence Programs
International Medical Corps is working to change attitudes and behaviours that contribute to gender-based violence (GBV) in Afghanistan, as well as to reduce the stigmas that shadow survivors. We do this through targeted social and behaviour-change activities. We also ensure that medical and psychosocial support is available for survivors of GBV through our health facilities and community-based support mechanisms, including training health workers and local partners in GBV case management and referral. Our current GBV activities reach nearly 1 million people in nine provinces, including Baglan, Balkh, Bamyan, Dikundi, Fryab, Jawzjan, Kabul, Kuduz and Samangan.
- 39,793 health consultations and emergency medical services provided to 5,873 people affected by conflict in 2020
- nearly 1 million people provided access to health sector support for GBV