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Afghanistan: Training course for Kabul ambulance crews

22-03-2004 News Release 04/40


Getting the injured out of the vehicle.©ICRC/ref. AF-E-00222 
A simulated, mass-accident training exercise was held in Kabul on 17 March, to the delight of watching children and the satisfaction of those involved.

Organized by the Norwegian Red Cross (NRC) as part of a broad programme to strengthen the capacity of the Kabul Ambulance Service (KAS), the exercise was the culmination of two weeks'training in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, administration of drugs, and mass-casualty management. Fifteen ambulance drivers, medics and call centre personnel from the ministry of health took part, all of whom had completed a basic training course some months earlier. To date, over 40 crew members have done the basic training.

The 14'victims'-- representing casualties of a major road accident -- were volunteers from the Afghan Red Crescent Society, in whose compound on the outskirts of Kabul, the event took place.

Each stage of the exercise -- from initial assessment of the victims'injuries, their transfer to a holding area, treatment and'onward referral'-- was monitored by the three NRC trainers. After it was over, the group met to discuss and evaluate each other's performance. 

" Today's session aimed to give the participants practical experience in activities such as triage, the assessment and handling of large numbers of casualties according to the severity of their injuries, " explained NCR ambulance manager, Terje Lysholm.

" It was really useful, " added 28-year-old ambulance driver, Mohammad Popul, who was in charge of the teams, " because we were able to practice things like resuscitation that we had only learnt about in theory before. "

Dr. Mari Rahimi is one of only two women in the programme©ICRC/ref. AF-E-00223 
The Norwegian Red Cross Kabul ambulance programme, which has been running a 24-hour service, seven days a week since August 2003, is being implemented under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Fifty-eight doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers and administrators attached to hospitals all over Kabul are involved in the programme. There are currently five Kuwait Red Crescent-donated ambulances in service, fully equipped by the Norwegian Red Cross, and kitted out with radios linked to a central call station.

Thirty-one-year-old mother of two, Dr. Mari Rahimi, is one of only two women in the programme at present. " My family is proud of what I am doing, " she remarked at the end of the exercise. " And I am happy to be helping others. "

" Ideally, we would like more women to join, " says Karen Helene Bjornestad, NRC programme manager. " But it is hard. The crews work evening and night shifts, and many men do not want their women folk to be outside the house, especially after dark. "

To date, the crews have transported many hundreds of patients to locations all over Kabul city. Often the work is straightforward, and involves the transfer patients from one hospital to another. But there are also more challenging moments. Last week alone, the crews responded to 75 calls, almost 20 percent of which were emergencies.