Afghan Nationals Facing Problems in Getting Medical Treatment in Neighboring Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — The visa restrictions at the Torkham border have been causing health complications to patients coming for medical follow-ups from Afghanistan to private hospitals in Peshawar.

“My wife, who underwent an operation a month ago in Peshawar, has been facing serious health complications due to our late arrivals because of restrictions at the border,” said Mirza Mohammad, an engineer in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, after reaching a private hospital here.

The condition of his wife deteriorated as he remained stuck at the border, owing to the condition of travel documents and other restrictions. “The problem with patients coming for chemotherapy after cancer surgery is common,” doctor said. They added that the patients missed appointments or arrived late, and couldn’t follow schedules.

“Several patients are not coming for follow-ups,” said the doctor.

Children develop many complications due to minor ailments because they arrive too late in hospitals. Before the visa restrictions, the Afghan nationals would come to see doctors without any hindrance, but now they don’t have smooth-sailing which causes health problems for the patients.

Torkham, Afghanistan and Pakistan

Torkham entry point between Afghanistan and Pakistan (File Photo by Malik Achakzai)

Two months ago, about 1,000 patients visited private hospitals to seek treatment in Peshawar, an official of a private hospital said; “Only 5% of patients are coming now,” he added.

The Afghan nationals, who come to Peshawar for treatment, cite non-existence of health facilities back home. “We can go to India, but that would involve five times more in travel costs. Treatment in private sector hospitals there is also very expensive,” said Mohammad Sher. He was at a private hospital in Peshawar for the treatment of his sister, who developed post-delivery complications in the Kunduz province three days ago.

He said that his efforts to provide her with prompt treatment didn’t prove useful, owing to delays at the border. “Had she been transported a day earlier, she would have been better,” he quoted the doctors as saying.

Dr Tariq Khan, Chairman of North West General Hospital and Research Center, confirmed that patients’ sufferings had been multiplied with the restrictions. “The patients require follow-ups and diagnosis to stop, continue or change their treatments,” he said.

Dr Tariq said that a general atmosphere of fear has gripped Afghans. “In some cases, we see patients through Skype and exchange information through emails, but not all of them have internet facilities, nor can be treatment prescribed for chronic illnesses,” he added.

By Ashfaq Yusufzai