MSI responds to Herat earthquakes

Earlier this month, three earthquakes tore through the Herat province of Afghanistan. The devastating quakes, which began on October 7, left more than 2,000 dead, most of whom were women and children whose homes collapsed. Entire villages were destroyed, and thousands of people were left in need of basic essentials like shelter, water and healthcare. 

The needs are overwhelming, but female healthcare workers are continuing to support women, both physically and mentally. 

Taking action in Herat 

In the wake of the earthquakes, MSI’s team members in Herat were confirmed safe. Now, they’re focused on restoring access to services as soon as it is safe to do so. 

Sharmila a trained midwife from a rural area of Herat, works as an MSI Lady providing contraceptive services and mental health support to women. 

She recently reflected on the importance of her work to women in her community: “Following 40 years of war, Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. Where I live there are no healthcare facilities, so I chose to take on this role to help women and be part of something positive. If I can help just one woman, it is a success and brings me happiness. 

Sharmila speaks with a client.

“Previously I used to go house to house, but now due to the restrictions I work from my own house and have turned a room into a mini clinic. A silver lining is that now I can see more women each day.” 

MSI’s work in Afghanistan 

Devastated by decades of war, poverty and natural disasters, many Afghans are suffering from depression, anxiety and other mental health problems. Women and girls are some of the worst affected. Yet, despite the significant needs, few healthcare facilities are equipped to help. In the wake of three serious earthquakes, access to mental health support is more important than ever. 

To help address the crisis, MSI Reproductive Choices, which has been providing reproductive health and family planning since 2002, has begun training its team to offer mental health and psycho-social support (MHPSS). This includes both face-to-face and telephone counselling for women who are restricted from leaving their homes. 

A woman enters an MSI clinic in Kabul.

Education and professional opportunities for women have been severely restricted, but female healthcare workers have been allowed to continue treating women, meaning MSI has been able to keep training and employing its workforce over 500 national staff to provide their life saving, life-changing work. About 80% of MSI’s team members in Afghanistan are women, who are providing for their families and serving a vital role in their communities. 

How you can help 

MSI works to provide additional support to communities in which we work when natural disaster, conflict and other emergencies strike. MSI Afghanistan is providing vital support to women and girls in the region affected by the earthquakes and across the country. However, they’re facing significant funding challenges that threaten their ability to continue serving women in need. 

“We work in areas where there are no other health services. If we weren’t here, the women and children who rely on us would have nowhere else to turn. The maternal mortality rate is already one of the highest in the world and without our support it will only get higher,” explains Baseera, MSI’s Project Lead. You can click here to donate to support our work in Afghanistan and around the world.

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