Kunar province in northeastern Afghanistan is often in the news because of the ongoing battles still being fought there between the Coalition Forces and the insurgents. In 2005 and 2006, my agency opened several clinics in Kunar, including the first Comprehensive Health Clinic that has ever existed in Chawkee District. Due to security concerns, I wore a chadri as I secretly traveled in one of two unmarked cars to visit the staff and patients in two of our agency’s clinics. Before we left the office compound, I gave my passport and identity papers to the Regional Director—a medical doctor—who was traveling in the other car. I knew that if we were stopped at a checkpoint, I would be asked to hand them over.
“What shall I say if I’m stopped and they ask me why I have these papers?” the doctor asked.
“Just say that you are my husband, but don’t like traveling with me so you put me in a separate car,” I responded.
The doctor blushed as the Afghan staff members who had been listening exploded into laughter.
When I arrived at the first clinic, I saw 80-90 people lined up for treatment and was told that this was the typical daily patient load. I learned that 90 women had delivered babies in the three months that the Chawkee clinic had been open. Previously, home deliveries had been the only option. The Kunar Provincial Minister of Health was so pleased that I would visit the province that he cancelled his meeting with the newly appointed provincial governor to accompany me. At the end of the visit, the provincial minister thanked me and told me that I was the first NGO Country Director to visit their facilities.
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From: Chapter 8: A New Culture in the Palm Springs of Afghanistan