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. Nearly 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. More than one million people are displaced within the country and an estimated 3.3 million are in need of lifesaving assistance as ongoing armed conflict continues.
UNOCHA reports that more than half of those displaced are children. Health facilities remain a common target, 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, around four in every 10 Afghans live below the poverty line, with huge differences in living standards 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 because of a widespread lack of access to adequate food and nutrition. Our priority is to improve the quality of life and health status of Afghans through integrated interventions and 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 to natural hazards, like 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. We are also helping to provide more robust shelter for 320 earthquake-affected families.
Emergency & Primary Health Care: In partnership with the Ministry of Public Health, International Medical Corps is providing life-saving emergency health care services to tens of thousands of people who have been affected by Afghanistan’s ongoing conflict. This includes trauma care as well as primary health care, maternal and newborn health care, mental health care, prevention and treatment of communicable diseases, and other services. We support four hospitals, 33 primary health care facilities, two mobile medical units, four trauma health posts and 172 health posts in Nooristan 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 spread these messages and information among their peers. 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 treating volunteers to serve as Hygiene Promoters to Pakistani refugees and Afghan host community members.
Gender-Based Violence Programs: International Medical Corps is fighting attitudes and behaviors that contribute to gender-based violence (GBV) in Afghanistan as well as the stigmas that are often placed on 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 970,000 people in six provinces including Kabul, Nangarhar, Herat, Balkh, Baghlan and Bamyan provinces.
Our impact and work
Challenges around aid access in Afghanistan
Few issues get more a