Thursday June 28, 2012
Docs win over Afghans
By LIM WEY WEN
KUALA LUMPUR: In the central Bamyan province of post-Taliban Afghanistan, blood donation and family planning used to be taboo subjects among the society.
However, the Malaysian Contingent for International Security Assistance Force (Malcon-ISAF) has managed to convince the community to accept both concepts in less than two years, winning the hearts of locals there.
“In fact, we have managed to conduct blood donation drives twice when we were there,” said Senior Medical Officer Mejar Dr Mohd Zaki Mokhtar, who was part of the third Malcon-ISAF team (Malcon 3 ISAF).
The Malcon 3 ISAF is the third group of 40 staff from the Royal Medical and Dental Corps and the Malaysian Armed Forces deployed to Afghanistan as part of a mission to provide humanitarian aid to the war-torn country.
Each group would carry out its duties for six months from base camp (KIWI Base) in Bamyan.
Kapten Dr Nor Azimah Zakaria, who is in charge of health promotion activities, said one of the reasons Afghans were reluctant to donate blood was because they thought that they would die afterwards.
And when it came to family planning, there was a belief among the Afghan community that it was a Western way of controlling population, said Dr Zaki.
“The Afghan Ministry of Public Health already provides contraceptives in pill form and also barrier methods but they are not accepted,” said Malcon 3 ISAF team leader Lt-Kolonel Nordin Mohd Yusof.
“However, after our programmes, we saw that there was more acceptance from the people,” he added.
Nordin said the team's approach was to support the ministry instead of introducing new programmes as this would be more sustainable.
The team's efforts were commended by the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force in an article titled “Malaysian Medical Team Delivers Innovative Healthcare” published on its website.
According to Joint Force Commander Vice-Admiral Datuk Seri Ahmad Kamarulzaman, Malaysia's involvement in Afghanistan started in October 2010 at the request of the Afghan government.
He said Malaysia was committed to the mission until 2014, subject to security conditions and funding by the Malaysian Defence Ministry.