Thursday, November 01, 2007

Medical Care and Knowledge in Afghanistan

It is amazing how far a little education can go. I work for an NGO in Afghanistan and most of our staff is Afghan with varying degrees of education (mostly just high school graduates, which in Afghanistan is better than average). Our janitor Sayed is fairly typical, very nice to me and most of the staff, hates cats (drowns them), and doesn’t let his daughter go to school… and almost no education. For some reason, in my whole organization, there is no first aid kits so my personal kits has been used for everyone except me (ok, not true, for 2 staff and one day worker). One day Sayed was limping around and I asked why (he speaks no english and I barely speak Dari) and he pointed to a festering cut on his foot that he had wrapped up with a dirty rag. I sighed, fetched my first aid kit cleaned the wound, gave him some antibacterial ointment and some sterile gauze and got our translator to help. Turns out the doctor had said putting a rag on it and washing it (with water) would suffice, it hadn’t.


Well a few weeks later he came with his son whose sibling had apparently taken a large swath of skin off his heel (with a stone or something) so I busted out my med kits again and went through the paces (this time it hadn’t been long enough to get infected). I actually had run out of some things and sent my translator to go to a pharmacy to get supplies (I had used up all the antibacterial ointment on the father, guard, and a guy installing a generator). Amazingly enough, the pharmacy didn’t have any hydrogen peroxide and no medical tape, but what they did have was some of the hardest/scratchiest bandages I have ever seen/felt so I made do with those. I also had to tell the father to use boiled hot water (not straight from the well) with soap, then wash the wound, then put bandages on it and I had to re-stress that no dirt can get on the wound… and he took it all in saying it sounded like good advice (advice he hadn’t heard before).