Doctors and family members of patients say conventions have changed since takeover Taliban, which made it more difficult for Afghan patients to seek life-saving care at Pakistan . “There is still no system,” said Ijaz Ali Khan, founder and chairman of the Hamza Foundation, a Peshawar charity that provides treatment for thalassemia and other blood disorders.
The Afghan health system, which was already suffering from a shortage of specialist doctors and well-equipped facilities, was seriously injured. Cuts in funding from international donors have resulted in a shortage of medical supplies and equipment. Some doctors left at the start of Taliban rule , and others lost their jobs in hospitals that could no longer afford to pay them. The head of the World Health Organization said late last month that the Afghan health system was on the verge of collapse.
Before the Taliban took power, p Afghan patients regularly traveled to Pakistan for treatment. Peshawar, a town located just over 50 km from the crossing pointof Torkham, has already received large numbers of Afghan patients in charity hospitals set up in part to treat people injured in fighting. Due to blood supply shortages and the limited number of thalassemia and hemophilia treatment centers in Afghanistan, people with these disorders also regularly seek care in Pakistan.
Passage to Pakistan for these patients was not a problem previously, Khan said. The Hamza Foundation would publish a letter saying the patient was coming to Pakistan for treatment. Since the foundation is a well-known entity in the region, officials on both sides would let them pass easily.
"They would allow all patients. But now they don't allow it, ”said Dr Tariq Khan, medical director of the Hamza Foundation.
When Abdul Latif Hashmi attempted to cross at Chaman-Spin Boldak crossing with his 50-year-old mother, he was arrested and questioned by members of the Taliban who did not believe he took him to hospital in Pakistan. “They were hitting us at the ,” he said of the Taliban. "They said we were going abroad, not for medical care.
In the area where he lives in Herat, in the West Afghanistan, Hashmi said there was a shortage of specialist doctors who could treat his mother, which is why he decided to take her to Pakistan for cancer treatment in a hospital in Karachi. Since last November, he had walked through Chaman-Spin Boldak with his mother every two to three months without a problem. This time, Hashmi and her mother waited at the for six days before paying a smuggler there to help them through.
Pakistan allowsTechnically the passage of patients from Afghanistan seeks medical treatment, but the country has also tightened its protocols since the Taliban takeover, which has made the transit much more complicated. Torkham only allows entry to Afghans with valid travel documents. Chaman, who generally allows Afghans to transit from certain areas near the , has also started to enforce visa rules more strictly. Both crossings have been closed intermittently over the past two months.
In Torkham, another consequence of the Taliban takeover is a delay in families waiting to receive the bodies of their loved ones. who died abroad. A private ambulance driver said he could previously pass bodies directly across the , but now has to wait for clearance.on the Taliban to transfer the corpse to a waiting vehicle on the other side.
Ullah estimated that there were 150 patients with medical problems patients, including cancer, heart problems and thalassemia, who were also waiting in the area where he was staying on the Afghan side. Among the Hamza Foundation patients who were initially barred from crossing to Pakistan was a pregnant woman whose fetus later tested positive for thalassemia.
Ullah finally made it across the country. with the help of a Pakistani doctor who facilitated his passage. Doctors from the Hamza Foundation say that most patients with thalassemia major need blood transfusions every 20 to 30 days. Taha has needed transfusions since she was eight months old.
After his long journey, Ullah must decide whether to rester in Pakistan for the next few weeks between appointments or may return to Afghanistan between her daughter's treatments.
The Hamza Foundation appealed to the Taliban and to the Pakistani government to help other patients in this situation. “We're just attractive as humans. On a humanitarian basis, you should allow them, ”said Khan, the founder of the foundation. “If we don't provide them with blood for a month, they will die. Their life is totally dependent on blood. They are like fish. If you take the fish out of the water, what will happen? "