Years of war have depleted Afghanistan of resources and eroded their ability to care for the sick. The health system is plagued and the standards are low. Thousands of Afghans travel to Pakistan in search of medical treatment. Poor and limited healthcare infrastructure is causing the numbers to grow.
‘My daughter would have died if I did not borrow money to bring her for treatment in Pakistan’, said the Afghan driver, Ali. Father and daughter travelled during two days on bumpy and treacherous roads. It was their second visit to Pakistan for the treatment of Shazia. She earlier received poor treatment at the local health facility in Khost.
The frail 19 year old girl was in pain. Every movement was excruciating. Desperate to ease his daughter’s pain, the father was determined to provide her with treatment. She had been unwell during two months and complained of chest pain associated with cough and shortness of breath. On 5th February, 2014 she was admitted at the Pulmonology ward in Lady Reading Hospital (LRH), Peshawar and was discharged after intubation of her lungs. She returned to Afghanistan and her health did not improve. She again had to rush back to Peshawar after a month and was diagnosed with an empyema (a condition in which pus accumulates in the lung). A decortication was planned for which a request for a decortication kit at an estimated cost of Rs.35,000 was submitted to Heartfile.
The family had borrowed money from relatives, sold possessions in order to undertake the trips and treatment which equated to expenses for transport, accommodation, treatment including medical procedures and medication. Shazia’s family has been saddled with a heavy financial burden. They were stretched to a breaking point but the father stood out with courage to save her daughter’s life. He was the only earning member of the family working as a taxi driver on daily wages. Furthermore, a joint family of 13 including Shazia’s elderly and sick grandparents depended on the meager income of her father. This family size and composition have had strong economic and social consequences with greater vulnerability to poverty, illiteracy, food security. Shazia’s ill health has added to these shocks.
Shazia sought treatment from medical amateur health practioners and herbal medicine in the absence of professional health facility in her area. She had no option but to endure the pain and hoped for a natural recovery being achieved which did not happen.
Heartfile effective program delivery has assured timely help to a vulnerable young woman. Shazia’s health hopefully may be restored after the surgical intervention.