KABUL, Afghanistan – Local medical professionals are working hand-in-hand with the Afghan National Army Commandos of the 207th Corps and medical personnel with the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan to provide medical assistance for the people of Shindand District, Herat Province.
This melting pot of caregivers from different backgrounds and abilities have come together to operate a medical clinic and provide specialized care for the families in the area.
“For a developing country, this is a very good clinic,” said a physician’s assistant with CJSOTF-A. “Due to the great vision and support of all those involved with the medical clinic and medical activities, we have become very successful here.”
The physician’s assistant said that many different people actively participate in operating the clinic and provide assistance with different types of medical outreach programs. ANA, Commando, local civilian and CJSOTF-A medical personnel work together to bring a wide range of medical expertise to the people of western Afghanistan.
They collaborated to help bridge cultural gaps, which can cause difficulties in providing the best possible care. One of the people helping to overcome these barriers is Nadra Barkzai, a nurse and midwife from a nearby village. She assists with children, but primarily works with pregnant women seeking medical assistance.
“I want to do something good for my people,” said Barkzai. “They have a lot of problems and I have a little skill. I’d like to help them. The best part is when I see a pregnancy case and I help them. I enjoy this.”
Barkzai said women in traditional Afghan families are in charge of everything in the house, to include health care. She added that medical personnel’s ability to provide care for women has drastically improved over the past eight years.
“During the Taliban [rule], women were not allowed to go to school, college, to the hospital or even to the bazaar. Now we can do these things.”
Barkzai said that recently 30 pregnant women have come to the clinic for medical attention. Coalition Forces have also provided some midwife and other medical classes for women in the area, which were well received.
These classes, in addition to the treatment provided, have helped to improve the health of the local people. Sakina, a widow from a nearby village, came into the clinic for a follow-up appointment after a surgery. She also brought in her daughter, who was having a tooth problem.
“I can get help here,” said Sakina. “The nurses are helpful.”
Sakina added that when the clinic is closed she goes to see a doctor and the nurses in the village. They are part of the civilian staff that operates in the clinic and the local communities.
“In the past, we have requested support of preventive medicine, dental and veterinary professionals in the area,” said the physician’s assistant. “Each have been here and provided great assistance.”
The physician’s assistant said other medical outreach programs have been conducted in addition to the clinic. Within the past two months, a Medical, Veterinary and Dental Civil Action Program have been held in the area. More than 1,600 received medical and dental care and more than 1,100 animals, mostly livestock, received treatment.
Each of these medical programs has helped to improve the health of the people in the area. They have also brought a level of care that has not existed in the past. Due to the high level of poverty in the region, it has been difficult for proper medical care to be provided for the people.
“Surgeons are very difficult to come by,” said the physician’s assistant. “Some of these people have had very old injuries that have not been treated. Not too long ago, we removed a bullet fragment from the hip of a village elder. The fragment was from a gunshot wound from more than 20 years ago. He is able to move now without the pain.”
Dental personnel provided care for the people in the surrounding villages. Arbob Zacharia, a local village elder, came in for a dental cleaning and had to have two teeth removed.
“This is the first time the dentist came and they helped out a lot of people,” said Zacharia. “There is no dentist in the village. The people have to go to Shindand or Herat and it costs a lot.”
This, in large part, is why the clinic is so successful, said the physician’s assistant. On average, over the past couple of months, between 600-700 people per week seek and receive medical aid in the clinic. The medical teams are working hard to meet the needs of the people and hope to continue doing so in the future.
“People have figuratively been doing handstands over the medical successes we’ve had in the region,” said the physician’s assistant. “I’ve been very impressed with what we’ve been able to accomplish so far and look forward to continued successes in the future.”