Afghanistan is in the news more than ever these days; and those of us here at Cross can’t help but think of the medical folks there whose efforts we support. Talented doctors, nurses, and medical personnel are there giving outstanding health care to citizens in Kabul—one of the most dangerous places on the planet right now.
Thing is, the Afghan people were dropping like flies long before bullets and bombs entered the equation. The mortality rate there is second to none. Make that third, actually: The infant mortality rate is the third highest in the world. And on average, people don’t live to see their 45th birthday. We’re not even talking battle injuries. A lot of times people succumb to simple infections. (Here’s an “at-a-glance”1-pager put out by the World Health Organization with more details.)
The problem is there just aren’t enough medical professionals to go around, which leads to the other problem – Economics 101: low supply + high demand = high price. Your average Afghans couldn’t afford a doctor if they found one.
The Afghanistan government is doing what it can, and one of those things is to welcome nonprofit organizations to operate hospitals like the one we support. Unfortunately, more organizations are hightailing it out of town, than are opening their doors to help the needy. Besides, when the U.S. Department of State issues a Travel Warning that “There is an ongoing threat to kidnap and assassinate U.S. citizens and NGO workers throughout the country,” who can blame them?
Yet danger doesn’t deter the folks at the hospital we support — which, by the way, are mostly Afghan nationals. More specifically, we support the surgeries they perform so price isn’t an issue to the patients. They treat a lot of clubfoot and cleft palate cases, do neonatal surgeries to correct birth defects, and other types of surgeries—about 200 a month! So, when we hear in the news about our military heroes in Afghanistan, we can’t help but also think about the heroic feats being performed every day in a special hospital in Kabul.