Doctors Without Borders works to reduce child mortality in western Afghanistan

By Emran

The international humanitarian group MSF (Médecins Sans Frontières or Doctors Without Borders) is making efforts to treat sick children and provide health services to Afghans as state-run hospitals are unable to do so. [Emran/Salaam Times]

HERAT -- Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has been working to save Afghan children suffering from malnutrition and deadly diseases as families continue to deal with extreme poverty in the country's west.

MSF has treated more than 100,000 children at the paediatric ward at Herat Regional Hospital over the past six months, including some 20,000 child patients in June, the organisation said.

Some 5,132 of the 20,000 sick children were admitted to the emergency room, and 400 were admitted to the intensive care unit, according to Dr. Jafit Nyonzima, director of the MSF-supported paediatric ward.

The admitted children were suffering from malnutrition, measles, diarrhoea and seasonal infections, he added.

A mother sits next to her child, who receives treatment for chronic malnutrition at Herat Regional Hospital July 3 in Herat city. [Emran/Salaam Times]

A mother sits next to her child, who receives treatment for chronic malnutrition at Herat Regional Hospital July 3 in Herat city. [Emran/Salaam Times]

Six-year-old Reza Gul, who suffers from chronic malnutrition, is shown June 28 at Ghor provincial hospital in Chagcharan. [Courtesy of Zahir Zahid]

Six-year-old Reza Gul, who suffers from chronic malnutrition, is shown June 28 at Ghor provincial hospital in Chagcharan. [Courtesy of Zahir Zahid]

Doctors treated 374 children suffering from malnutrition -- including 140 who were hospitalised -- and another 740 infected with measles in June, said Nyonzima.

MSF also offers care to pregnant Afghan women.

As many as 600 malnourished pregnant women, most of whom were internally displaced persons (IDPs), were cared for in Herat in June.

The rate of child mortality has decreased by 80% in light of MSF's aid, said Nyonzima.

Malnourished children

In recent weeks, a photo of Reza Gul, a six-year-old girl from Ghor province, has become a symbol of poverty and hunger among Afghans.

Gul, who comes from an extremely impoverished family and was admitted to Ghor provincial hospital in Chagcharan for chronic malnutrition, had become so weak and fragile that she could no longer talk or walk.

Her grandmother Zar Gul said she could not afford to feed her grandchild. Reza Gul's father was killed while fighting in Tolak district, Ghor province, two years ago, and her mother is critically ill.

"We did not have anything to give to my grandchild. When she fell sick, we did not have money to take her to the doctor. When we realised that there was no hope for her survival, we brought her to [Ghor provincial] hospital," Zar Gul said.

"I have seven grandchildren, all of whom are frail and thin. We cannot even find a piece of bread for ourselves, and we sleep hungry many nights," she added.

Thousands of other children in the western region of Afghanistan suffer from hunger and malnutrition.

Fatima, who lives in Shindand district, Herat province, and is the mother of five-month-old Mohammad Qasim, said she was malnourished during her pregnancy because of economic constraints, and her child was born very weak.

Mohammad was hospitalised in the paediatric ward of Herat Regional Hospital for 10 days, she said July 3.

Her child was very frail and could not breathe when she brought him to the hospital, but he is recovering, she said.

"My husband used to work, but he has been jobless for the past several months. We cannot afford to buy meat or fruits. My four other children are also thin and weak," Fatima said.

"We have never experienced this level of poverty in our lives ... we were better off. However, now that he [her husband] is jobless, we have no income," she said.

Malnutrition on the rise

The number of children suffering from malnutrition is increasing in the western region, reports say.

The number of malnourished children under MSF treatment was 200 in May, according to MSF, but it raised that number to 374 in June. Almost 80% of them are Herat residents.

The MSF-supported paediatric ward at Herat Regional Hospital has only 80 beds.

Poverty and hunger have affected most children, said Dr. Khalid Zahid, a paediatrician at the MSF-supported paediatric ward.

"When a pregnant mother does not eat nutritious food, her child becomes very weak ... the mother loses weight from poor health and weakness, and the baby is born very weak," he said.

"A malnourished child is very vulnerable to diseases. Unfortunately, many die every year after contracting illnesses such as diarrhoea and pneumonia," Zahid said.

More than 90% of malnourished children admitted to the hospital are from extremely poor families, said Dr. Fawzia Azizi, another paediatrician at the MSF-supported paediatric ward in Herat city.

"The number of malnourished children was very low last year, but it has significantly increased this year and the number is increasing by the day," she added.

"Many malnourished children are brought to the hospital in critical condition. Health services provided by the MSF have saved many lives. All medications, milk and food are given to the children for free," she said.

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To me, it is amazing why the Afghan healthcare system couldn’t be able to stand on its feet that during the last 20 years? And even now after spending of billions of dollars, we need international organizations’ support for very common diseases like diarrhea and malnutrition. It’s very well said that with charity a person could never become rich. So Afghans should wake up and understand that this is their own country and they themselves should build it without relying on foreign aid, otherwise until this world lasts Afghanistan would never stand on its feet and the Afghans would always remain beggars.


Afghanistan is going backward day by day instead of making progresses. Despite some developments in the healthcare system and the reduction of children’s mortality rate, it’s being said that Afghanistan has taken first place in terms of children’s mortality. According to the media reports the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) released a shocking report on the global figures of children casualties during the wars. Around 29000 Afghan children have been killed since 2005 due to the unrest in the country. This places Afghanistan on the top of the list of the countries with the highest number of children casualties in war. The report also indicates Yemen, Syria, and Ethiopia among the countries where the children’s death tools are high. The figures released by UNICEF are based on the official data of these countries and UNICEF believes that the actual number of casualties in these countries is more likely to be higher than the numbers in this report. In its report, UNICEF also stated that during the last 16 years, 266000 cases of serious Child Rights' violations have been registered in Afghanistan. UNICEF called 2022 the year of paying attention and effort to children in very sensitive and challenging situations and asked the world’s countries to contribute to the improvement of the living situation of children, and due to the current uncertain situation, these problems are getting worse day by day.


Surprisingly, these issues are now being published. Why were these things not published during the last twenty years? Why didn't you or any other media outlet report it? Why didn't you inform the authorities about it? Why haven't you performed your media mission properly? What America has done in Afghanistan is for itself. If it has done little for Afghans, why would this happen today? As America left, you said you spent more than a hundred billion dollars in Afghanistan! What did you spend it on? They prepared the Taliban to fight against the government, and the government to fight against the Taliban? Show us one thing Americans have done for us that may satisfy us. After the 20 years long American presence, Afghans are like living in the second century. They have nothing to eat. The place to stay is not right. The Taliban ban education on the orders of the Americans and others. No work is done for the health sector. What has happened and is clear in Afghanistan is the Afghan genocide. They have been killed under different names in the past twenty years. Now the orphans are collecting alms. In short, the United States, Russia, Britain, China, Pakistan, and the Arabs have played a direct role in what was done, and they still want to carry out their assassination plans on my helpless people. Please have mercy on Afghans. Let them live like the people of the rest of the world. Let them properly eat, drink, study, relax, work ...


Are you sure? Why? The United States says it has spent $2 billion in Afghanistan. Who is there to say what they have spent on? It is clear from your report that it has not brought about any positive change in the condition of the people of Afghanistan. What has the money been spent on when no positive change is made? Have they spent it on crushing the internal terrorists/Taliban? if that is the case, the Taliban have come to power by force more than ever before, and now they are not listening to anyone. If it was spent on crushing the Arabs, when bin Laden, the leader of the Arab terrorists, appeared in Pakistan, did anyone ask Pakistan for clarification? The death of an Afghan, without doubt, has no value. It has no value because you paid a ransom of one million Afghani for killing an Afghan, and the Taliban paid a ransom of one hundred thousand Afghani, but do you feel sad about your American soldiers who lost their lives in this war? For God’s sake, stop the wars in the world anymore. Hey American, Chinese, Russian politicians, and Arab beasts, you are all stupid because you want to kill humans. Your hearts are of pigs, take the hearts of pigs out of your bodies and find compassion like human beings. Spend money on serving people and welfare.