KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – A Taliban-appointed curator of a small district hospital outside the Afghan capital has big plans for the location – to the dismay of the doctors who work there.
Mohammed Javid Ahmadi, 22, was asked by his superiors, who had just left the battlefield after a war that had lasted most of his life, what kind of work he could do. Positions were offered in a variety of ministries and departments that are now under the rule of the Taliban after their August coup and the collapse of the previous government.
Ahmadi dreamed of becoming a doctor; According to him, poverty prevented him from going to medical school. He chose the health sector. Shortly thereafter, the Mirbacha Kot District Hospital near Kabul was transferred to him.
“If someone with more experience could take this position, it would be better, but unfortunately if someone (like this) gets this position, after a while you will see that he can be a thief or corrupt “, He said, highlighting the multi-year event. the problem of the former government.
Ahmadi takes the job very seriously, but he and the other health care workers at the 20-bed hospital rarely see each other. Doctors are demanding payment of wage arrears amid an acute shortage of drugs, fuel and food. Ahmadi’s first priority is to build a mosque inside hospital premises, segregate staff by gender, and encourage them to pray. The rest will follow God’s will, he tells them.
The drama in “Mirbacha Kot” is played out in the health sector of Afghanistan after the Taliban seizure of power. When power changed hands overnight, medical professionals had to face a difficult adaptation. Many of the problems that preceded the rise of the Taliban have exacerbated.
The US froze Afghan assets in US accounts shortly after the takeover under international sanctions, damaging the Afghan banking sector. International monetary organizations, which once funded 75% of government spending, have suspended payments, triggering an economic crisis in the aid-dependent country.
Health was severely affected. According to Taliban Deputy Health Minister Abdulbari Umer, 2,330 of Afghanistan’s 3,800 medical facilities have been financed by the World Bank, including the salaries of medical workers.
Wages were not paid for several months before the collapse of the government.
“This is the biggest problem for us. When we arrived here, there was no money left, ”Umer said. “There is no staff salary, no food, no fuel for ambulances and other equipment. No medicine for hospitals; we tried to find something from Qatar, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, but it was not enough. ”
In Mirbacha Kot, doctors have not been paid for five months.
Discouraged staff continue to see up to 400 patients a day from six neighboring districts. Some have general complaints or heart problems. Others bring sick babies.
‘What we can do? If we don’t want to come here, we have no other job. If there was another job, no one could pay us. Better to stay here, ”said Dr. Gul Nazar.
Ahmadi makes a round every morning. His small figure, crowned with a black turban, stands in stark contrast to the sea of white coats that routinely rush into and out of the hospital to care for patients.
The first turn of the day is the registration book. Ahmadi wants every doctor to go in and out. It is a formality that most healthcare professionals are too busy to remember, but neglect enough to make Ahmadi angry.
Secondly, the mosque.
Workers go to the hospital to take measurements for the project, and Ahmadi gives them orders.
“We are Muslims, we have 32 employees, and for them we need a mosque,” he said.
He added that there are many benefits. Relatives can stay with the sick overnight, sleep in the mosque, as there are not enough extra beds in the hospital, especially during the winter months. “And this is what is needed the most,” he said.
Dr. Najla Kwami looked at him in confusion.
She, too, has not been paid for months, and she constantly complains about the lack of drugs in the maternity ward. They don’t have pain relievers for expectant mothers. The pharmacy only has analgesics and some antibiotics. She asked if now is the time for the mosque.
But Ahmadi said nongovernmental organizations are required to renew their aid programs to fund the shortfall. The money for the construction of the mosque will come from local donations.
His arrival heralded other radical changes.
Men and women were told to stay in separate wards. Female doctors are prohibited from going to intensive care. Ahmadi ordered them to wear hats and pay special attention to female patients.
“We cannot go to the other end of the hospital,” said 27-year-old Dr. Elaha Ibrahimi. “A woman is a woman, a man is a man,” he told us.
Due to their shortage, doctors advise patients to look elsewhere for drugs and return. Ibrahimi said Ahmadi often checks her recipes.
“He is not a doctor, we do not know why he is here, we ask ourselves about this all the time,” he said.
But Ahmadi is quick to speak of deep-seated corruption in the hospital under the former hospital administrator, his predecessor from the former government.
He said he was stunned to find an entire warehouse full of medical equipment, furniture and other stolen goods for sale in the market for personal gain. He was unable to provide evidence that this was the intention of the previous administrator.
He sees it as his job to be careful to ensure that this never happens again, echoing the Taliban’s broader goals for the nation.
Doctors are regularly criticized by angry patients, most of whom cannot afford to pay for life-saving medications. “They all fight with us,” Ibrahimi said.
Night shift staff say there is no food. Electricity is cut off for several hours during the day as generator fuel runs out quickly.
Kwami holds up his cell phone for light as he goes to visit the emaciated babies.
“Every doctor here is deeply depressed,” she said.
Ahmadi, on the other hand, said that his dreams are finally coming true.
Working in a hospital provided something that life as a child in poverty never could: a medical education.
He claims that in the past two months he has learned how to give injections and prescribe essential drugs. He said that this is one of the reasons why he carefully studies Ibrahimi’s recipes.
“I know the names of drugs that are needed for different diseases,” he said proudly. He added that he had recently arrived on the scene after a car accident to get an injection of pain medication.
Ahmadi still dreams of becoming a doctor and, like the healthcare workers he manages, hopes that the money will somehow come in.