Story by Cpl. Anthony Ward Jr.
LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan — The lack of medical care was rampant throughout Afghanistan five years ago, but with the steady and solid work of the International Security Assistance Force and the Afghan National Security Forces, a complete turnaround occurred.
The task of aiding the ANSF and Afghan ministries of Public Health and Defense in Helmand and surrounding provinces lies with the Combined Medical Department for Regional Command Southwest.
“Four to five years ago, Afghanistan had the second worst medical system in the world,” said Navy Capt. Jeffrey W. Timby, medical director for RC(SW). “The leading cause of death for children under the age of 5 was diarrhea and dehydration.”
Fast forward to the present. Now, the Five Surgeons Shura is held quarterly between ANSF leaders, Ministry of Public Health leaders and NATO leaders in Lashkar Gah to discuss the improvements made to the healthcare system and how to establish even better counter measures to improve the quality of life among the population which is trauma care.
“The objective of the shura was to continue the dialogue that Capt. Timby initially established to gain the Afghan commitment to delivering a more integrated and coherent healthcare program in Helmand province,” said British Army Lt. Col. Ian G. Harper, deputy medical director for CMED.
This point of view allows better decisions to be made regarding each ministry and ANSF organization working collectively and pooling resources to do a much needed thing, establish emergency services, said Harper.
Kabul is the only city in the country that currently has an ambulance emergency service. Establishing one to service Helmand and surrounding provinces would greatly aid the mission of NATO and ANSF forces, said Timby.
“Ninety-five percent of the population can walk to a health clinic or health post within two hours of their front doors,” said Timby. “Establishing an ambulance care would be a huge feather in the cap for the ministries.”
The resources exist to provide Helmand and the surrounding provinces with an ambulatory system, they just need to be pooled together. The Ministry of Public Health possesses the hospitals needed for the ambulance service, with the ANSF and Ministry of Defense possessing the manpower and vehicles to transport casualties and provide point of injury and life support care to the injured.
“It’s a big job, but it’s important and coming together nicely,” said Timby.
As the drawdown of NATO forces nears, the Afghan forces will continue to assume more responsibility and provide care and security to their people.