Afghan doctors, Coalition troops assist villagers

By Marie Schult Staff Sgt., Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force

An Afghan national police officer collects information from villagers outside a medical clinic at a combined military outpost in Farah province, Afghanistan. Twice a week the clinic opens its doors to the people of Farah and the surrounding area for treatment. The ANA medics at the clinic treat more than 400 people a week. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Marie Schult)
An Afghan national police officer collects information from villagers outside a medical clinic at a combined military outpost in Farah province, Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Marie Schult)

FARAH PROVINCE, Afghanistan (Feb. 6, 2008) —  Afghan national army medics, pharmacists and nutritionists from the Afghan Ministry of Public Health, assisted by coalition forces, provide free medical care to more than 400 villagers a week at a clinic near a combined military outpost in Farah province.

“We heard good things about this clinic and the ANA medics here,” said Rosia Hakimi, a local woman who came to the clinic to receive treatment for digestive problems.

Every Tuesday and Thursday morning, the gates outside the Farah clinic are crowded with men, women and children seeking medical attention from ANA medics.

“I do things to make them feel better. I give them a human touch,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Kelly A. Newman, a physician’s assistant with the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Farah. “I just want to show the people here that we really care about them.”

Villagers see that caring attitude as soon as they arrive at the clinic, where they are greeted by Afghan national police officers who direct them to specific areas of the clinic according to their needs. For most visitors to the clinic, the first stop is the triage station. There, ANA and coalition medics meet with each patient to determine the level of care they need or set up an appointment with the Ministry of Public Health nutritionist for education, dietary advice or supplements. Patients who need more extensive medical care are transported to the Farah Hospital.

“These people travel a long distance, sometimes from other districts, to receive care,” explained Dr. Nasurllah Noori, a Ministry of Public Health pharmacist who volunteers at the clinic twice a week. “We are making their lives better.”

Many of the patients at the clinic are women and children from around the province. Before leaving the clinic, they visit the provincial nutritionist, Abdul Ghani, who also volunteers at the clinic twice a week.

“I provide them with dry milk, baby formula, baby food and nutritional supplements,” Ghani said.

Ghani said he is proud of the service he is providing at the clinic.

“A woman brought her two babies in to the clinic last week. She didn’t have any milk for her babies. Because she was poor, she could not feed both of her children,” he said. By providing food and baby formula, he said he felt he made a difference in the family’s life.

Newman told a similar story about a malnourished baby and mother who visited the clinic several months ago. The physician’s assistant ensured the mother and baby were nursed back to health and provided enriched food and medicine for the mother to take home. A few months later, the young family returned to the Farah clinic. Newman said she did not recognize the mother or the baby.

“It was a fat, healthy baby,” Newman said. “I was surprised because I was very concerned about her condition.”

“Most of what we do here is teach Afghans the basics of good hygiene and nutrition,” said U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer James J. Cartier, a hospital corpsman who volunteers at the clinic and runs the ANA medic training program here. Cartier teaches Afghan farmers how to avoid injuries and take care of themselves during long, arduous workdays. He also teaches the men about the importance of personal hygiene in preventing the common skin ailments he said he sees so often at the clinic.

While the clinic mostly treats minor illnesses, the ANA and coalition doctors and medics are prepared for more extensive treatment. Abdul Wodood, a 50-year-old day worker brought his two sons to the clinic after they were injured during an accident in their home. Both boys were burned when a propane tank at their house exploded. Wodood took his sons to the Farah Hospital for initial treatment, but brought them to this clinic for follow-up care.

“I appreciate the medics here. They are very honest and kind to my children,” said Wodood.

“The ANA medic’s primary role is combat casualty care in the field,” said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Michael Meier, the senior medical officer assigned to the PRT. “ANA improve their outpatient skills at the clinic so they will be able to help their own troops better, as well as help villagers in the outlying areas they visit.”