Winter Challenges in Remote Afghan Communities: Accessing Healthcare


Winter Challenges in Remote Afghan Communities: Accessing Healthcare

In remote areas of Afghanistan, the winter can be unforgiving. Snowfall can reach up to 2 meters, making access to healthcare services extremely difficult for communities around the country.

During these challenging times, it is Relief International’s healthcare heroes who ensure that pregnant women, children and families in isolated areas receive the essential medical support they need.  Here are some stories from our healthcare workers and service users living and working in remote areas of the Panjshir province in Afghanistan. 

Hamza preparing to administer a Tetanus shot
Hamza preparing to administer a Tetanus shot

Hamza cycles to support communities

Hamza cycles through the terrains of remote Afghanistan to provide vaccines to people otherwise cut off from health services. At times when he can’t travel by bike due to heavy snowfall, he travels on foot to reach patients in need.  “Without this, people would be forced to walk one to two hours through the mountains.”

Hamza recalls an experience that has stayed with him ever since it happened. “I had gone to visit a woman who had just given birth in a remote village. She was bleeding heavily. I was able to prevent the new mother from going into shock and having her condition worsen. I was so pleased I was there to help.” This past winter, we have provided 1093 vaccinations to people in remote communities.  

Zahra in the health clinic

A new ambulance: A lifeline for Panjshir City 

Zahra, a midwife with 12 years of service, emphasizes the impact of Relief International’s recently added ambulance service in Panjshir City.

“The center received an ambulance three months ago, and it is incredibly helpful,” shares Zahra. She describes many occasions where pregnant women in labor were carried to the center on foot, but now with the ambulance, Relief International can collect women from their homes and deliver their babies safely at the center.

Zahra recalls a significant moment when a woman who had gone into labor was carried to the clinic by her family using a wooden stretcher. It was snowing, and the roads were not accessible. “They had to stop 15 minutes away and contacted us. I collected my equipment and rushed to meet them to deliver the baby. We then brought them back to the clinic to provide the healthcare and support they needed,” she shares.

In her 12 years of service, Zahra has helped to deliver 475 babies.

Noor accessing maternal healthcare information
Noor accessing maternal healthcare information

Noor’s journey to motherhood  

“I am from Shotul District of Panjshir. We live far away from this health facility and do not have transport, which is challenging, particularly during the winter when it snows,” says Noor. She has twin 1-year-old boys and is currently pregnant. Noor recalls how, during her first pregnancy, Relief International’s ambulance was a lifeline, bringing her to the clinic when she was experiencing pain. Without the ambulance, it would have been nearly impossible for Noor to access the healthcare she needed in time.

“The Relief International midwives have helped me learn more about my health during and after pregnancy, such as the importance of about nutrition and breastfeeding.” In 2023, we delivered 360 healthcare sessions in Panjshir. 

Dr, Amin in the health clinic

Dr. Amin’s commitment to his community  

“The main challenge for local communities here is the scarcity of health facilities. Many patients are forced to walk two to three hours just to access basic care,” says Dr. Amin, a local doctor working in Panjshir.

He highlights the rewarding experience of delivering life-saving care, “Shortly after joining the clinic, I helped save the life of a patient who had gone into anaphylactic shock following an allergic reaction.” Dr Amin is dedicated to giving back to his community, sharing, “After studying medicine in Herat and Kabul, I wanted to return to Panjshir to help improve health services for my people.” 

Fatima smiling at healthcare workers

Fatima finds comfort in our healthcare workers 

Fatima, a mother of six from the Shotul District, has used Relief International’s healthcare facilities on many occasions, sharing that accessing services is particularly challenging during winter due to the blocked roads. She expresses how despite the cold outside, the warmth of doctors and nurses make our healthcare facilities a welcoming and comfortable space, adding, “The doctors and nurses are always very kind.” 

The resilience of these incredible people from our community echoes through the snow-covered mountains.

In these harsh winter conditions, the presence of dedicated healthcare workers and the vital role of ambulances make a world of difference for people living in the most remote areas ofAfghanistan.

In 2033, we provided over 15, 000 healthcare services in all of the Panjshir province, while ensuring the safe delivery of 1365 babies. Efforts like these ensure that residents have access to timely and life-saving interventions, enhancing overall health and wellbeing outcomes for these remote communities.  


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