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.
35 years later, we are still there, delivering healthcare, healthcare-related services and training as Afghanistan remains one of the world’s most complex humanitarian emergencies. An estimated 2.6 million Afghans are displaced within their own country with 6.3 million in need of some form of humanitarian or protection assistance in 2019–almost double that of the previous year.
In a June 2019 report UNOCHA reported more than 2 million children under 5 are acutely malnourished, compared to 1.3 million in 2017 and in six conflict-affected provinces, fewer than 20% of women receive more than one antenatal visit compared to 64% nationally. Health facilities remain a common target of violence, resulting in the suspension of services in several locations. 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. According to the World Food Program, huge differences in living standards persist between those living in cities and those in rural areas. The country has some of the world’s highest infant, child and maternal mortality rates, due to a widespread lack of access to adequate food and nutrition. Our priority in Afghanistan is to improve the quality of life and health status of those Afghans we serve, in part by strengthening the capacity of the public health system.
Emergency Response & Preparedness International Medical Corps builds sustainable response capacity in communities and among front-line 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 if and 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 so that they are prepared when disasters strike. These efforts currently benefit nearly 48,000 people directly.
Emergency & Primary Healthcare In partnership with the Ministry of Public Health, International Medical Corps is providing life-saving emergency healthcare services to tens of thousands of people who have been affected by Afghanistan’s ongoing conflict. This includes trauma care as well as primary healthcare, maternal and newborn healthcare, mental health care, prevention and treatment of communicable diseases and other services. We support four hospitals, 33 primary healthcare facilities, two mobile medical units, four trauma health posts and 172 health posts in Nuristan and Paktika provinces.
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 disease outbreaks. 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 (CLTS), which mobilizes communities to end open defecation by focusing on behavior change. Our WASH teams work closely with communities to educate them on the risks of open defecation, and then enable them to educate others. We do this by forming Family Health Action Groups, which work with Community Health Workers to foster behavior change around sanitation and hygiene at the household level.
We also provide safe drinking water, hygiene supplies and sanitation facilities to refugees, returnees and people affected by conflict and natural disasters in Nangarhar Province. In Paktika, International Medical Corps delivers emergency WASH assistance, including building latrines, drilling boreholes and training volunteers to serve as hygiene promoters for Pakistani refugees and Afghan host community members.
Gender-Based Violence Programs International Medical Corps is working to change attitudes and behaviors 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 behavior 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 six provinces, including Kabul, Nangarhar, Herat, Balkh, Baghlan and Bamyan provinces
Our impact and work
Relentless Afghan conflict leaves traumatized generation
On a low bed in a quiet, all-female hospital ward, a depressed Afghan teenager huddles silently under blankets, her mother close by. In a nearby room are men suffering from schizophrenia, delusions of persecution and power, anxiety and panic disorders.