Jerri's Journal: Medical Needs of Women in Afghanistan

May 20, 2015

Day 8

What an itinerary!  We met with the shelter’s overall supervisor who has been trained as a nurse, doctors at a major hospital, and people from a women's business development program. We also met with a former staffer from my own firm, JBS International, who is now heading up USAID's Women and Leadership program. We finished up with dinner in the staff cafeteria at the U.S. Embassy.

That's a lot considering that security takes about a half-hour at every site, and traffic in between is dense and tense -- resembles a Los Angeles freeway without lane markers.  Still haven't figured out how the cars look so good. Afghans are adept at nudging cars over to get ahead while stopping one inch before a collision!  

The directors of medical services and the burn unit of a major hospital met with us. They absolutely support women's equality and respect Women for Afghan Women's work. One director had posted a sign above his desk with WAW's phone numbers, and this poster was all over the hospital. These two male doctors are leaders in the hospital and have created a culture that says, if you suspect domestic violence, refer to WAW. 

One funny moment with the doctors: they were a bit puzzled at WAW's request to meet with the two women doctors directing medical services and the burn unit.  The burn unit director laughed and said he didn't think he could quite manage that (i.e., being female) and hoped being male would be OK. (We had assumed they were both women because generally, only women will  see women.)

The demand for services, given their staffing, is horrific. They have three burn surgeons and one plastic surgeon who perform 1,000 inpatient surgeries and 6,000 outpatient surgeries a year. The burn recovery unit has 20 beds and two nurses -- but only one nurse at a time, who is on a 24-hour shift.  They desperately need more staff. 

Unlike the US, there is only one kind of nurse and there is a shortage everywhere. A new program is training community health nurses to work in clinics out in the provinces and in major cities. 

In my first journal entry, I mentioned a father who had risked his life to save his daughter's after she was sexually assaulted at a very early age. His daughter is now 13 and stays at WAW, and we talked with the father and daughter.  He asked us to take photos of them, since he can only afford to travel into Kabul about once a year (which costs about $100). We delivered the pictures to him today, and he was so happy.

Two sisters were brought into the shelter today--another forced marriage story; they are safe now.  Some of our team visited the home of a woman who had lived at WAW. In mediation sessions with her husband and family, she decided to go back to her husband and she was doing very well and her husband was behaving well. This is not always the case. Sometimes the women cannot leave the shelter to return home, for fear of death at the hands of their relatives who do not accept them.

Tomorrow morning we meet with the midwives association. And then we start home. 


May 13: Jerri Shaw Explores Women's Rights in Afghanistan

May 14: Adventure Begins in Kabul

May 15: International Women's Day in Afghanistan

May 18: Meetings with the First Lady of Afghanistan and Other Diplomats

May 19: Afghan Men on Women's Rights 

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