From disaster to healing hands: Afghans’ quest for medical care

Dr Rabia Noor

As Afghanistan is facing several difficulties in every single region caused by the wars of nearly four decades and Afghanistan is still not self-reliant. About 250,000 Afghan refugees have reached in Pakistan since August 2021, but a refugee crackdown has left several of them in fright of being imprisoned or deported from the country.

In January, more than 600 Afghans have been deported from Pakistan in only three days, and hundreds new of them face eviction in a renewed crackdown on refugees. Due to some reasons 605 people were sent back to Afghanistan from Sindh province, including 63 women and 71 children. Furthermore, 800 people were likely to be deported in the coming months. (According to guardian global development)
Last summertime, authorities began deporting Afghans for illegally entering the country, but arrests and detentions have increased since October. Nearly 1,400 Afghans, including 129 women and 178 children, have been detained in Karachi and Hyderabad alone, the largest number of arrests made to date in Pakistan, say lawyers.

The people of Afghanistan still do not have access to basic services in many areas such as clean water, food, health, education, electricity and so on. Due to the deficiency of good and proper health facilities, Afghan people have to go to other countries for the treatment of diseases, most of them go to Pakistan.

People suffering from different diseases tries for treatment inside Afghanistan, but lack of qualified doctors, medical staff and sometimes the unavailability and poor quality of most medicines doesn’t let them get cured on time. Secondly, there are no advanced diagnostics and medical equipment for treatment. Therefore, patients are required to go to another country, specifically Pakistan, to save their lives. In this process they face countless difficulties.

First is getting a passport now. It is difficult for a poor Afghan to get a passport. They have to take for more than people. The cost of a passport is at least 12,000 Afghanis, and only those who are economically better are able to take passport. Making a passport is time consuming process, even it can take months. Treatment on time is less expected in such circumstances.

Second, anyone who has a passport cannot get a visa for Pakistan on time, because I have seen the situation, two years ago I wanted to get a Pakistan visa for the patient and myself, so I faced with lot of problems, according to Professor Mohammad Jan.

“Early morning at 4:00 AM, we went to the embassy premises and waited there in severe cold weather with my sick mother, while the doors of the embassy opened at 10:00 AM. But we were allowed to enter in evening because there were so many people. The police hit people by sticks and everyone have to wait for the whole day.

Even they stay for night there. It becomes very difficult and hopeless when the patient is in a critical condition and waits for days, and don’t get visa. If you are lucky and enter the embassy, they give you 15 days or a month to come back, then you will get the visa. So, what will be the condition of the patient after one month and how severe will the disease be? Getting visa quick requires lots of money, so patients who don’t have money can’t get a visa on proper time”.

Crossing border, medical care seekers face many problems. According to Jan If anyone don’t go early, they may not be able cross the border until the end of the day. At the border, sometimes some situations leads to violence. It is becomes more difficult for the patients. When a patient goes to Pakistan, usually is unfamiliar there, getting good qualified doctors is a challenge too. If there is someone who could cooperate with them to find a good doctor, otherwise they are deceived by quakes and illegal traders.

“Patients usually plan to go to Peshawar or another city for treatment, they often face problems there, and for example, they are sometimes deceived by fraudsters, like take their money”. Jan said. Many cases are reported that people suffering from diseases like cancer, are decieved by fraudsters, usually bring money on debt but unfortunately aren’t able to do treatment. Then they don’t even have money to rent a car to go back to Afghanistan.

Most of the patients coming for treatment, suffer from chronic diseases, traumas, and gunshot injuries have to go to Pakistan many times. They can’t get to doctor on time or they are blocked due to political conflict.

The government of Afghanistan should pay attention to domestically equipped hospitals, on one hand, it will have a positive effect on economy of Afghanistan, and patients will not face as much serious problems while traveling to Pakistan and during treatment there. Most patients go to Pakistan and India for treatment, so these countries, especially Pakistan, should provide a series of facilities for Afghan patients, such as ease of travel, visa-free travel, and guidance for patients in Pakistan to find well qualified doctors and so on. On the one hand, it would have sympathized with humanity and it would benefit the economy of Pakistan in many ways.

So that patients do not face problems and patients get treated on time, some suggestions are as follows:

  1. The government of Afghanistan should build such well-equipped hospitals inside the country so that all kinds of diseases can be diagnosed and treated. Medications imported should be checked and controlled.
  2. Both the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan should make an agreement so that patients can go to Pakistan for treatment on urgent visa.
  3. The government of Pakistan should established facilities at the borders.
  4. Now a days Afghans can travel between Afghanistan and Pakistan only on Torkham and Chaman routes if they have visa. Allow traffic on other roads such as Khost Ghulam Khan Routes.
  5. Ambulances should be considered for emergency patients in border.
  6. In order to help patients in Pakistan, such committees should be formed to guide patients to well qualified doctors and protect them from commercial doctors.
    If the government of Pakistan provides the above facilities for the patients of Afghanistan, on the one hand, it will be a humanitarian action and on the other hand, it will also benefit the economy of Pakistan, because these patients spend millions of dollars to Pakistan for treatment.