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The Norwegian Afghanistan Committee has opened a new health center in the provincial capital of Gardez in the Paktia-province of Afghanistan. Operated by women, the health center offers a wide range of health services to women and children residing in hard-to-reach areas. This initiative is a crucial step in reaching women within the restrictions imposed by the Taliban. This is instrumental to ensure good health and quality of life for all.

-Access to female health personnel in these areas is extremely limited. This is a key factor in the high maternal and child mortality rates in Paktia. Due to Taliban restrictions and conservative beliefs within the families, women cannot be treated by male healthcare personnel. The Norwegian Afghanistan Committee has set up a health center run by women. This includes a pharmacy with a female pharmacist, as well as a bioengineer capable of analyzing samples”, says head of the clinic, Nasrin Oryakhil, as she continues:

-The purpose is to provide women and children with access to high-quality healthcare and reduce barriers to seeking medical attention. The health center comprises of a pharmacy, laboratory, physiotherapy, and a maternity ward. It also features departments for vocational courses (JobLabs), and courses covering IT, art and English (ThinkLabs).

[JobLabs is an initiative for boys, girls, and women. The purpose of the initiative is to equip participants with knowledge and skills in job searching and to assess employment opportunities. ThinkLabs targets the same group as the JobLabs (boys, girls, and women), providing participants with training and practice in life skills and relevant subject areas.]

The importance of the health center for the local community

The community have embraced the new health center with warmth and enthusiasm.

-There is no doubt that the new health center has a tremendous meaning for women. Especially considering that women cannot access health services in other regions and cannot afford to buy medications. The newly opened health center in Gardez offers both treatment and medications for free, says Oryakhil

Paktia province has long struggled with a shortage of female healthcare professionals, making it difficult for women to access the limited amount of healthcare services available. Nazmeena and her daughter Muska, residents of Gardez city, express their anticipation for using this opportunity:

-My husband shared the news regarding the opening of the health center, and i had to visit it immidiately. I am grateful for the opportunity and have already been treated there for a stomach-related issue. The healtcare staff are welcoming and friendly, says Nazmeena enthusiastically.

Shirin, a central leader in the Gardez community, has long been concerned with the limited access to healthcare services for women in the region. For her, the new health center is instrumental:

-We have not had similar services in the region for the last 60-80 years. Previously, the regions healthcare personnel merely comprised of male personell, which made it almost impossible for women to receive treatment. Now that we have female healthcare personnel, female patients seek treatment here. This is a breakthrough for womens health and for women in the region.

In many parts of Afghanistan, access to information about disease and disease prevention is severely limited. The health center aims to address this issue by providing patients with crucial information on health, nutrition, family planning, pregnancy, childbirth, and post-natal care.

A broad impact

The Norwegian Afghanistan Committee’s strong foundation in Gardez stems from years of support to the regional Institute of Health (IHS). IHS-Gardez educates healthcare professionals for four surrounding provinces. The health center will offer practical experience to students in the following areas: midwifery, nursing, pharmacy and physiotherapy.

Furthermore, the Norwegian Afghanistan Committee is engaged in efforts to establish similar health centers in other regions. This is a crucial initiative to ensure women and children have access to healthcare and a secure space for courses and training.

A healthcare sector in growth

Lima Ahmadi, one of the nurses at the newly opened health center notes that many women in the region now visit the health center with confidence:

-We are very grateful for the work the Afghanistan Committee is doing in these dire times. They have provided us with job opportunities so that we can be role models for our families and the community, while also mitigating long-term economic challenges.

In addition to the opening of the health center in Gardez, we have plans to set up similar health centers in the provinces of Badakhshan, Faryab, and Ghazni. This reflects the ongoing collaboration with the Afghan people and the support for the healthcare sector in Afghanistan.