Saturday, December 20, 2008

U.S. forces provide medical treatment to Afghan women

Story by: Sgt. Juan D. Alfonso

CAMP HERO, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan – To help curb the mortality rate of Afghan women and infants, a U.S. medical officer provided medical treatment to several Afghan women and their children Dec. 17 at a women’s clinic on Camp Hero, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.

The treatment was part of a semi-monthly effort to train and mentor Afghan medical personnel to improve health care and provide medical treatment to Afghan women, who otherwise would not be seen.

Navy Lt. Christine R. Stehman, the Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Afghanistan air combat element flight surgeon, volunteered to conduct the women’s clinic to raise awareness and ensure afghan women received the medical treatment they need.

“Because of cultural restrictions, women are not allowed to take their burkas off in front of men and any conversation has to take place through the burka or even through a screen,” she said. “This makes examinations impossible. Sometimes, the women need to be seen for female issues.”

The ultimate goal of the program is to provide a permanent female medical provider, staffed by the Afghan people to handle the needs of women, whether they are pregnancy issues or something much more serious.

The clinic has also served as a form of social relief for many of the women.

According to Stehman, unless celebrating a holiday or attending a wedding, Afghan women do not gather in any social function. The clinic has served to treat both their medical needs and desire to spend time with other women.

Stehman hopes that raising awareness and educating female medical personnel will help not only to improve the medical treatment the majority of Afghan women receive, but also provide a positive role model to Afghan women.

“I’m a physician, so my job is to provide health care and medical attention, but I have an opportunity to not only do so but to show an example of an educated female to some of the local Afghani population, both male and female,” she said. “If one girl sees me and says ‘I want to be a doctor,’ that’s a step in the right direction.”

The clinic currently has one midwife who handles female medical issues.
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