Female Afghan Doctors Thin on the Ground
Paktia province in southeast Afghanistan is so short of female doctors that pregnant women and others travel long distances in search of treatment.
In this province, lack of female doctors is not the only issue, but general lack of medical workers, unprofessional doctors, bad and ineffective medicine and lack of health centers are also mentionable.
With a population of 3.1 million, the province has three hospitals and some 43 health centres. Between them they have just five female doctors. By choice or tradition, women avoid seeing male doctors.
Dr Nazdana Paktiawal heads the health department for Paktia province, and she freely admits that more women need to be recruited as doctors. The shortage is leading to higher mortality rates among mothers and children, she says.
Dr Paktiawal blames security problems coupled with the low pay on offer for female doctors.
Haji Mamur, a resident of Samkanai district, says there is only one male doctor covering the entire district. Whenever women in his village fall ill, he said, they have to be taken to the main provincial town, Gardez, where the central hospital has just three women doctors, or else they seek medical treatment across the border in Pakistan.
Residents of other districts say the situation is the same there, and that poor roads make it even riskier for sick or pregnant women to travel long distances for treatment.
Dr Naim Ahmadzai, deputy head of the doctors’ association in Gardez, points out that even male doctors will not travel to certain areas due to the security risks or because medical facilities there are poor.
Hamed Ahmadzai is an IWPR-trained reporter in Paktia.