accessibility & help

Health care in Afghanistan

Decades of conflict have taken a terrible toll on Afghanistan’s people. War has caused not only deaths and injuries but also poverty and a serious shortage of trained doctors and nurses. Over 770 hospitals have closed because of damage or security issues.

In addition, nearly a third of Afghanistan’s people do not have enough nutritious food. Over half of children under five are malnourished. A fifth of women of childbearing age are underweight.

This leaves people vulnerable to diseases that would be preventable or easily treatable if they had access to health services and a balanced diet.  For instance, diarrhoea is one of the biggest causes of child death in Afghanistan. And women there are the most likely in Asia to die from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.

Red Cross project supports better health

The remote Balkh province is particularly badly affected and has few health centres or trained medical staff.

The Red Cross health project there, run with our partner the Afghanistan Red Crescent, supports families in 40 communities to improve their own health. Together, we will reach 33,500 people over five years.

Many rural families have to drink water from streams or other contaminated sources. Only about a quarter of families have hygienic toilets, leaving them vulnerable to diseases spread by dirty water.

To change this, over 400 community volunteers have helped to build wells and install toilets through our project.

At regular community group meetings, people learn about how good hygiene supports health and can then share this information with their neighbours. Up to 10,000 people have taken part.

Eggs and vegetables – a nutritious mix

The project also supports families to keep hens for eggs and to grow their own vegetables. In just one year, we gave 20 chickens each to 217 families, a total of over 4,300 birds.

We also provided chicken feed, supplied materials to build coops and trained women to look after their birds. With each hen laying 70-80 eggs weekly, families can eat some eggs and sell the others. The money earned helps people buy other food or cover household expenses.

To help people grow their own vegetables, the project also provided seeds, tools, fencing materials and training to 189 men and their families. Each seed pack includes a range of vegetables to help families get the different nutrients they need.

Our volunteer community group meetings help people learn how to cook and eat the produce to improve families’ nutrition.

Grandmothers can change minds

In Afghanistan, men often make most of the family’s decisions. Women may not be able to choose whether to have check-ups while they are pregnant or where to give birth.

Grandmothers, though, are well respected in rural Afghan society so the project runs over 40 grandmothers’ clubs.

Women of all ages learn together about the importance of eating well and health care in pregnancy. Each grandmother can then influence her son to allow his wife and daughters to get medical help during pregnancy and birth.

The project has been so successful that the Afghan Red Crescent now runs similar projects in other provinces.


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