International Medical Corps has worked in Afghanistan since 1984, supporting and rebuilding the health infrastructure of a country that has seen decades of conflict and instability.
Today, Afghans have one of the lowest life expectancies (44 years) and highest infant mortality rates (over 150 deaths per thousand live births) in the world. One of every four Afghan children dies before their first birthday. Continued armed conflict makes security a constant dilemma for Afghan civilians, who find it difficult to obtain basic services when much of the country is inaccessible to international assistance agencies. About three-quarters of the population have no access to clean drinking water.
Since 2004, International Medical Corps has supported five rounds of Community Midwifery Education (CME) in Khost province, training 30 new community midwives each year. These new graduates are then deployed to health facilities throughout the province to provide maternal-child health services. International Medical Corps began training a new batch of 30 midwives in March 2011, who will be trained for two years according to the extended curriculum recommended by the Afghan Midwives Association (AMA) and approved by the Afghan Ministry of Public Health.
We recognise that the obstacles for trainee midwives in Afghanistan do not end in getting accepted onto a training programme.
International Medical Corps is also supporting a newly established CME programme in Paktika province, through which we provide 25-30 midwifery trainees with classroom and practical trainings under the AMA’s extended two-year curriculum. Due to security concerns, many of the CME trainees live in a hostel renovated by International Medical Corps. We also supply all of the training materials and equipment for the programme, including furniture, text books, computers, internet, stationery, meals, transportation and even lab coats.
We have helped hospital staff to develop effective administration systems, expand the use of information technology and modernise records systems. International Medical Corps has also sought ways for the hospital to achieve greater efficiency in the use of medical supplies and equipment, and establish effective quality control mechanisms. As part of our three-year programme at WAK Hospital, International Medical Corps has developed a training plan for all departments in the hospital.
In the remote and mountainous Paktika Province, bordering volatile Pakistani tribal areas, International Medical Corps overcomes difficult security conditions to implement our second hospital management programme. We operate at the main provincial hospital in the town of Sharan, in addition to smaller facilities elsewhere in the province that include district hospitals in Urgon and Khirkot and a chain of 20 comprehensive and basic healthcare centres. Collectively, these medical facilities serve a target population of approximately 400,000 and treat about 20% of the population each month.
International Medical Corps supports the administrative and clinical teams at the facilities in order to build their capacity and resources to better manage their large caseloads. By improving the infrastructure and structural safety of the main mental health facility, hospital staff will be able to increase the number of outpatient services and outreach programmes into the community.
We are also working closely with the Ministry of Public Health and the Ministry of Higher Education to improve how psychiatry is taught in Afghanistan.
These projects are funded by the European Union
We deliver services through two district hospitals and 15 smaller facilities located around the province. These services focus on seven high-impact areas of primary care: maternal and newborn health, including reproductive health and family planning; child health and immunisation; prevention and referrals for acute malnutrition; treatment and control of communicable diseases; mental health; physical disability; and provision of essential drugs to all health facilities where we work.
International Medical Corps integrates nutritional services into all of our primary and secondary health facilities in Afghanistan, in order to tackle the alarmingly high rates of under-nutrition. By building the capacity of health care workers and caregivers, we help raise awareness of the causes of acute malnutrition and its consequences for early childhood development. These local health workers are then able to take appropriate action when they see patients showing symptom of under-nutrition.
Since 2009, International Medical Corps has included a focus on the prevention of gender-based violence (GBV) and care for GBV survivors in our refugee and returnee community health care programmes. Our behavioural change programme, targeting both male and female community members, aims to increase the awareness and skills of health care providers and other community leaders to respond to GBV. The first of its kind in Afghanistan, our GBV programme provides discreet counselling and care for at-risk women and their families, as well as support services for men and women. We also spread awareness about GBV and the rights of women and girls among decision makers and influential leaders at the community, district and provincial levels.
International Medical Corps UK recognises the invaluable support of the following European donors to make our work possible.