Afghan health workers should be allowed home to treat people

BMJ 2002; 325 doi: (Published 28 September 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;325:674
  1. Roger Dobson
  1. Abergavenny

    Afghan health professionals who fled abroad should be allowed to return home to help rebuild their country, without jeopardising their refugee status, says the BMA.

    A resolution from the BMA to the annual general assembly of the World Medical Association (WMA) in Washington, DC, next week will also urge national governments and international agencies to commit funds to rebuilding the education and training system for healthcare workers so that Afghan doctors and other healthcare workers can provide health care to the population.

    Some Afghan healthcare workers who left their home country under previous regimes are now interested in returning home to contribute to the rebuilding of health services, but they want the security of knowing that if the situation deteriorates they will have no problems reactivating their refugee status.

    The resolution points out that Afghanistan is one of the world's poorest countries and that even before the “war on terror” tens of millions were facing starvation. “Health risks are increased by poverty, starvation, and by civil unrest and military actions. Health care services in Afghanistan have suffered over a decade of serious neglect. Women have been excluded from education, including higher education and training in the healthcare professions,” says the resolution.

    It adds that medical schools and other institutions that train healthcare workers have been destroyed and their educators lost, leaving no effective resources for training new healthcare workers or for updating and retraining those who have been long denied the ability to practise.

    “The WMA also calls upon national governments to enable Afghani refugees in their countries with refugee or equivalent status to return for short periods to Afghanistan to take part in infrastructure rebuilding programmes without jeopardising their refugee status,” says the resolution.

    Embedded Image

    Refugees should be allowed home to rebuild Afghanistan without jeopardising their refugee status

    (Credit: SERGEI GRITS/AP)

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