Thursday, August 13, 2009

New hope in Helmand healthcare

The main hospital in Helmand province turned on its first life-saving oxygen system this week which, donated by the Estonian Government, was installed by the Provincial Reconstruction Team.

The Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Helmand supports development programmes alongside local Afghan authorities. It is made up of military and civilian personnel from Britain and other countries.

The donation and installation of the $100,000 life support system, which provides oxygen to support twenty patients in Bost Hospital in Lashkar Gah, was managed by Anu Raisma, an Estonian with 25 years' nursing experience.

Ms Raisma, who works in the PRT, said:

"It is good to know that this new system will be saving lives, especially those of infants. In Estonia, the UK or America things change very slowly. But here you see great improvements like this happen in only a few months."

A British Medical Support Officer from the RAF, Flight Lieutenant Lisa Higham, has been working with Ms Raisma on the project. She said:

"The conditions in the hospital are far short of those back at home in Oxfordshire, but having worked in Kosovo earlier this year I had a good idea what to expect.

"The new oxygen system is going to have a really positive impact. I'm looking forward to our next project to help improve medical services in Helmand, probably working with local community clinics."

Bost Hospital receives patients with serious conditions referred from across Helmand, a province with a population of nearly a million people.

After the return of democratic government in 2002 the hospital was suffering from over a decade of neglect. However, with the support of international donors, the local Department of Health has rebuilt it to provide an essential medical service.

In the past two years UK and Estonia, working through the Provincial Reconstruction Team, has supported Bost Hospital by installing water, electric and sewage systems at a cost of $250,000, and donating $1.25m of medical equipment.

As a result of initiatives like these across Afghanistan the percentage of the population with access to healthcare has risen from 9% in 2002 to over 82% now.

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