Première Urgence Internationale has been present in the Kunar province for nearly 20 years. Our field team’s commitment remains intact in spite of the political hazards and conflicts that have affected Afghanistan for the past two decades. Première Urgence Internationale’s priority in the Kunar province is still to give access to healthcare to isolated and vulnerable populations.

Thanks to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs under the Common Humanitarian Fund (CHF), our teams have been organising since June 2015 an emergency programme that manages and supports two health centres in particularly isolated districts of the province. This way, 32 000 people have access to quality healthcare. These four structures are located in villages that do not benefit from state support.

Première Urgence Internationale chose to recruit its team members from within the communities for better acceptance of the projects among the population. Strong ties with local leaders and a long and lasting presence in the region make it possible for us to work in hard-to-access areas and who do not benefit from any help.

What does your work in the Kunar province consist in?

Dr Shah Mahmood: I have been working for 22 years with Première Urgence Internationale, I started as a health centre Manager, and then Field Coordinator. Today I work as Field Advisor of the projects that take place in the Kunar province. My work consists in ensuring that our intervention is in line with the population’s needs and accepted by the community. The relations I have developed with the community leaders allow us to access the population. We can benefit for example from cleared and secured areas for the vaccine campaigns. I also participate in the monitoring of the health centres.

Dr Shireen: I started working at Première Urgence Internationale in 2011 as health centre Manager and I am currently Project Manager. I manage the emergency programme funded by the Commun Humanitarian Fund and I supervise the teams of the 4 centres we intervene in. The quality of the care we provide is our priority, as well as the provision of medical supply.

Why is it important to work in these zones?

Dr Shah Mahmood: In isolated zones, there is a high prevalence of seasonal diseases. During wintertime, we notice an increase in respiratory diseases, like pneumonia; in spring and summer, we witness outbreaks of typhoid fever and malaria. The fact that there is no drinkable water in most villages also has a major impact on the population’s health.

Dr Shireen: Without Première Urgence Internationale’s programme, thousands of people wouldn’t have access to healthcare in the region. Besides, monitoring the centres enables us to maintain our high quality standards, especially by respecting the protocols and by effective care planning.

What are the major challenges that you face?

Dr Shireen: The main difficulty lies in the fact that the environment we live in can be unsafe and can threaten our activity and our ability to supervise them on a daily basis.

Dr Shah Mahmood: Some communities are particularly isolated and don’t always accept outside visits. Their acceptance and security is therefore difficult to ensure. But most of the communities we work with continue to benefit from health services that Première Urgence Internationale provides. The situation in zones that aren’t entirely under state control can change very rapidly. We were recently criticized for not visiting the villages regularly enough and for not communicating enough on our visits. Forging bonds takes time, because the community leaders we work with must continue to regularly convince the armed groups that we only here to help.

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