Dr Sarah Fane (Afghan Connection) on Medicine in Afghanistan

Dr Fane gave a compelling account of the work of Afghan Connection (a charity she founded) and her own personal experiences in Afghanistan. She highlighted the devastating effects war has had on healthcare in the country (from severe war injuries to the lack of basic sanitation in refugee camps), providing a striking contrast with the relative prosperity within our own NHS.

As her work has moved her into broader social areas (most significantly education) she described how improving schooling within Afghanistan will be crucial to any long term goals. In particular she emphasised the importance for improving the access to education for Afghan girls who are often taken out of school at young ages. This denies them the chance to hold highly skilled jobs such as being a doctor, leading to lack of female doctors in Afghanistan. This has a huge impact on maternal health as, in Afghan custom, only female doctors may tend to expectant mothers. Dr Fane emphasised that, as well as keeping more women in education so that they can become doctors, part of the charity’s job is to persuade communities that this can drastically improve their healthcare without detracting from their central beliefs and values.

However, in stark contrast to the suffering occurring in the country, she highlighted the positive and engaging nature of many of the Afghans she was associated with as well as the beauty contained within the stunning landscape and unique culture. She therefore finished on a positive note by suggesting that with the help of overseas charities the Afghans can rebuild their society, her conviction lying in the nature of the Afghan people and their desire to build themselves a better future.

Nipuna Senaratne OS (GRP)