Hospital worker, staff provide lifesaving care in southern Afghanistan

Afghanistan, April 1, 2002

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    Abdul Qayyoum is an administrator at the Hazarjuft Hospital in Helmand province. The hospital is part of a network of health facilities Mercy Corps operates in southern Afghanistan. Photo: Scott Heidler/Mercy Corps Photo:

Abdul Qayyoum took on the role of administrator of the Mercy Corps-run Hazarjuft Hospital in the southern Afghanistan Helmand province just three months after it opened its doors in 1999.

A native of Lashkar Gah, about a two-hour drive north from the hospital, Abdul was hired by Mercy Corps while working in Quetta, Pakistan for the Saudi Red Cross. He fled his home in Lashkar Gah during the war with the Russians and lived in Quetta for 10 years before returning home for his posting with Mercy Corps.

He enjoys his work with Mercy Corps in Helmand because of the long-term commitment it has shown the people of the region.

He adds: "I'm happy working in a loyal and honest environment. That’s why the people here are happy with the work Mercy Corps is doing."

In addition to the Hazarjuft Hospital, Mercy Corps has a network of rural basic health units that were kept operational during the coalition bombing last year. Just three days after the Taliban surrendered Kandahar and Helmand in December, Mercy Corps delivered medical supplies to the Hazarjuft Hospital.

The work is rewarding to Abdul, but he admits there are many aspects of the medical system in southern Afghanistan that makes his job a challenge. Particularly when patients are in need of specialized treatment and care.

"We need more equipment and doctors. The nearest large hospitals in Lashkar Gah and Kandahar don’t have the staff or equipment to help complicated cases," he said. "We have to send them by road to Quetta and that is a very long trip. A lot of the patients die on the way there, almost 50 percent."

But not all cases have tragic endings. Earlier this month a gunshot patient was brought to the Hazarjuft Hospital. He was the victim of a robbery, a trend that has become more frequent over the past few months.

The quick action of the staff in stabilizing the patient and an available ambulance to transport him to Lashkar Gah Hospital saved his life. The usual two-hour trip took four, but the patient arrived in time. He was operated on that night and was recovering the next day.