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Afghanistan: bringing medical assistance to remote populations

05-06-2007 Feature

The steady deterioration of Afghanistan's medical infrastructure has created a vast gap in the provision of health care services, especially in more remote parts of the country.


  © ICRC    
  Doctor Abdul Halim, one of two Community-based First Aid Trainers in Kapisa Province, trains volunteers to treat broken limbs.

While major hospitals in larger cities have been supported by organizations that include the ICRC and various national Red Cross Societies, the availability of medical facilities in the more remote regions of Afghanistan continues to decline.

With the recent increase in violent clashes, access to health facilities has become even more of a problem for remote villages. At a time when international institutions are not always able to deploy staff due to security concerns, it is the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) that is working to meet the medical needs of vulnerable Afghans.

The ARCS Community Based First Aid Programme (CBFA) seeks to establish comprehensive first aid support throughout Afghanistan – including to its remote communities.

The idea for CBFA was introduced in June 1997 with the multiple aims of meeting medical needs, attracting volunteers to the ARCS and introducing the Fundamental Principles which guide the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. A pilot study was conducted in Nangahar Province in 1998 and the programme has since spread to all provinces.

Each province has two first aid trainers, and each region one CBFA supervisor. Based upon demographic information submitted by the Heads of District, one volunteer is trained in first aid procedures for every 50 families. Volunteers are selected by village elders.

Each volunteer must complete a ten day course including sessions on first aid, health education, mine awareness, HIV and knowledge of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. On completion they are issued with a certificate, a first aid manual and first aid kits – the latter provided by the ICRC and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

The CBFA provincial trainers supervise selected team leaders, who are appointed, in turn, to help volunteers complete their duties.

" In the absence of medical structures in more remote areas of the south and south-east, the CBFA volunteers are working long hours to meet the demand of victi ms, " says Dr Abdullah, the ARCS director of the CBFA.

" Demand for assistance to the war wounded is currently beyond the capability of the ARCS in conflict areas, especially in the south. With the right resources CBFA staff could meet the requirement. The more you do, the more people want you to do. "

The ARCS is planning to further expand its activities in the south and south-east to meet the demands of communities in need.