Healthcare Crisis in Kunduz Province: Dasht-e-Archi Clinics Can Not Treat even Minor Injuries

The lack of access to quality healthcare services is a major concern for residents of the Dasht-e-Archi district in Kunduz province. They express dissatisfaction with the absence of essential medicines and skilled healthcare professionals in the district, which poses significant challenges for the community. In order to receive proper treatment, the residents are compelled to transport both regular and critical patients to the central Kunduz province, as they claim that doctors in government clinics are unable to treat even minor injuries. Consequently, they urge the Ministry of Public Health, under the Taliban administration, to address this issue by deploying experienced healthcare personnel and ensuring an adequate supply of medications to the government clinics in the Dasht-e-Archi district.

In an interview with Hasht-e Subh Daily, Mohammad Islam, a resident of Bajwor village in Dasht-e-Archi district, highlighted the impact of armed conflicts between the Taliban and the previous government’s military forces on healthcare issues in Kunduz province. He expressed that the Ministry of Public Health has neglected the region. According to him, there are several subsidiary clinics and three main central clinics, but their functionality is inconsistent. Sometimes the clinic staff is present, while other times they are not. Furthermore, the clinics often lack necessary medicines and specialist doctors. Even for minor maternity and childbirth complications, patients are instructed to visit the central hospital in Kunduz City.

Local sources report that Kunduz province currently has a total of eighty healthcare centers, with three of them operational in the Dasht-e-Archi district. Located approximately an hour and a half away from Kunduz City, the district of Dasht-e-Archi has been the site of intense and violent clashes between the security forces of the previous government and Taliban militants in recent years. These battles have resulted in significant casualties.

Residents living in remote areas of this district express their disappointment with the lack of improvement in the healthcare sector, even after the war in the province has ended. Hassan, a resident of Arbaab-e Sharif village, voices his concerns, stating, “The clinics are not addressing our healthcare needs. Even in clinics that exist, there are insufficient facilities to handle maternity and childbirth complications, let alone our basic issues.” He further emphasizes, “We expect at least fifty percent of our healthcare problems to be resolved, but our healthcare clinic fails to even treat ordinary wounds.”

Based on statistics released by the Ministry of Public Health, Afghanistan had around 3,500 active hospitals and healthcare centers prior to the collapse of the republic regime. The Ministry further states that approximately 90% of the population needs to travel about two hours to reach healthcare facilities. Presently, around 40% of Kunduz province residents can access healthcare facilities within a travel time of approximately ninety minutes.

According to sources, apart from the Dasht-e-Archi district, similar problems are being faced in the Chahar Dara, Qalay-I-Zal, Khan Abad, and Aqtash districts of Kunduz province. Among these, the majority of residents in the Aqtash and Khan Abad districts transfer their patients to the central hospital in Takhhar province for treatment due to its proximity. Sources also mention that in certain instances, the distance traveled becomes a fatal obstacle, resulting in the death of patients, particularly pregnant women, before they can reach the city center of Kunduz province.

The residents of Kunduz province are urging the Ministry of Public Health, led by the Taliban, to address their healthcare issues. While the Taliban acknowledge the healthcare problems and lack of access for residents of Kunduz province districts to health centers as a public issue, they assert that some healthcare services are being provided through house-to-house visits.

In an interview with the media, Najibullah Sahil, the head of public health for the Taliban in Kunduz province, addressed the widespread healthcare problems in the region. He stated that daily health services, including vaccination, distribution of materials for malnourished children, and psychological counseling, are being provided to at least five thousand people in the province. He emphasized that people no longer need to travel several kilometers away from their homes for healthcare, as these services are now offered directly to households, mosques, and villages.

The healthcare system in the country has traditionally depended on assistance from the international community over the past two decades. However, since the Taliban came to power, many aid organizations have scaled back their support to the health sector. Various factors, including decreased humanitarian aid, unclear policies, misconceptions about the healthcare system, and restrictions on women imposed by the Taliban, have contributed to the challenging conditions experienced by Afghan citizens.

In a report, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has characterized Afghanistan’s healthcare system as “ineffective.” The organization released the report on February 6, stating that an ineffective healthcare system, widespread poverty, and Taliban-imposed restrictions on women have contributed to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Filipe Ribeiro, the MSF representative in Afghanistan, expressed concerns about the challenges of filling essential positions, including midwives, in some of their projects. Ribeiro raised the question of where the next generation of doctors, midwives, and nurses would come from if women are denied access to education. The report by MSF calls on the Taliban to ensure women’s access to education and employment opportunities.