Monday, July 19, 2010


A former Mujahideen fighter, now a senior NCO in the Afghan National Army (ANA) is bringing medical care to remote villages in central Helmand with help from ISAF forces in a program known as Village Medical Outreach (VMO). Dur Mohammad joined the Mujahideen in 1987 to fight the Russian occupation and he’s been fighting ever since. He’s been shot 3 times and he pulls down his T shirt to reveal the scar left by a bullet.

When the Russians left, the Taleban came and in between fighting he turned to medicine, training in Kabul. He joined the ANA nearly 5 years ago and for most of that time he’s been working on a primary healthcare programme bringing medicines and treatment to small villages in the area around Camp Bastion.

Afghan National Army soldiers and gunners from No1 Squadron RAF Regiment setting up a reception area for a primary health care clinic at the village of Habibabad

Although the village of Habibabad is not far from a patrol base, the surrounding area is far from benign. A US armoured vehicle recently triggered an IED and the insurgents are running a programme of intimidation. Treatment is hard to get anywhere else. The nearest medical facilities are more than 50 kilometres away at Lashkah Gar and with no roads and few vehicles it’s not an easy trip. When the convoy arrives at the village there is an outer cordon of armoured vehicles already in place. ANA, RAF Regiment and US troops watch the surrounding desert for any sign of impending trouble.

Eventually a lone man carrying a small child appears in the distance and strides towards the red tape forming a barrier around the clinic and waiting area. Everyone watches and sure enough, he wants to come in. It opens the floodgates.

Staff Sergeant Dur Mohammad treats a villager in the clinic

Everyone wanting treatment, even the babies, is searched away from the waiting area but no-one minds. The first patient smiles cheerfully as he goes through an airport style search with his little son. First the metal detector, then a thorough pat down by an ANA soldier. He is seen in the clinic and given medicine provided by a charity. Dur Mohammad says, “Most of the patients come with headaches, pains in the stomach, eye complaints, skin complaints. The children have worms and get diarrhoea in the hot weather. We can also perform minor surgery.”

Dur Mohammad became a Mujahideen to fight against a foreign invader. When asked why he now works with the ISAF forces he says: “I joined the army to serve my country. This is different. We are working together for the good of Afghanistan. It’s a really good job. I am happy to help our people”.

Photos: Wg Cdr Steve Dargan/MOD

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