Since the beginning of the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan in May, we have witnessed fierce fighting. In recent weeks, the conflict between the Afghan army and the Taliban has intensified and has moved to more urban areas. Three provincial capital cities-Kunduz in Kunduz Province, Zaranji in Nimruz Province, and Sheb Khan in Jazcan Province-have been occupied by armed groups.
In the city of Rashkar Gah, Helmand Province, relentless gunfire, air strikes and mortars occurred in densely populated areas. The houses were bombed and many people were seriously injured.
The fighting in the city makes it more difficult for MSF to respond. Our employees are part of the community, and like many people, they are afraid to leave home. It’s too dangerous to walk in the street, and life has stagnated. Some of our colleagues spend the night in the hospital so that they can continue to treat the patients. The situation has been bad for several months, but now it’s worse.
Despite the challenges, the Boost Hospital supported by MSF is still operating, and trauma needs have increased significantly in the past week.
In just one day, we performed 20 operations on people injured by violence, which is unheard of in MSF because we are not Lashkar Gah’s main trauma care provider. Before last week, we performed operations on an average of two war-wounded personnel a day. The city’s main trauma center is operated by another organization, which is also under tremendous pressure. People they cannot accept will be sent to MSF for treatment.
From August 1 to 6, MSF treated 170 war-wounded patients and performed 71 operations on those injured in violent incidents. Between May 3 and July 31, our team treated a total of 482 war-wounded patients. Almost all of them (92%) were injured by shells and bullets, of which about a quarter (26%) were Minors and children. The number of patients treated by MSF is only a small fraction of the actual number of people injured as a result of violence.
The fighting has also exacerbated health needs beyond trauma care. In view of the lack of well-functioning and affordable medical facilities in Helmand Province, people rely on the 300-bed Boost Hospital (the only referral hospital in the province) to provide basic neonatal, pediatrics, hospitalization, intensive care, obstetrics, and nutrition. Bad and surgical services, etc.
Since May, MSF staff have witnessed an alarming increase in the severity of patients’ illnesses when they arrive at the hospital. People described that despite the need for medical care, they were forced to wait at home for the fighting to subside or take dangerous alternative routes.As the fighting took place not far from Boost Hospital, people were afraid to leave their homes due to violence, and the chances of getting medical care were very low
“We have some patients caught in a crossfire. In addition to severe diarrhea, they can also be hit by bullets in the shoulder or leg,” explained a doctor who works in the emergency room and intensive care unit of Médecins Sans Frontières at Boost Hospital.
“If they really want to embark on the journey, the conflict will cause people to think ten times. They delay until they can’t wait any longer. Their relatives have not opened their eyes for two or three days, they are shallow breathing, and they are slow to respond. From a medical point of view , It’s almost too late.”
When people do arrive at the medical center and receive care, this does not necessarily lead to a full recovery. The impact of conflict can also have long-term consequences, as a patient with a gunshot wound in both arms explained: “My family depends on me, but I think in the future I will be unable to work because of the injury. I will find it difficult to feed me. Family. I have left my home and I cannot go back.”
Even among MSF staff, the impact of the fighting is clearly visible. A colleague of mine, Doctors Without Borders, explained: “The medical staff are exhausted. The work itself, seeing all these patients, is very difficult. Most importantly, people must deal with external pressures and worries.”
MSF continues to provide much-needed healthcare services at Boost Hospital and continues to carry out healthcare projects in four other locations across the country: Herat, Kandahar, Khost and Kunduz.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.