Although the nation has been in a state of war for almost 30 years, the most recent and ongoing conflict in Afghanistan started in October 7, 2001, when the United States commenced Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in response to the Al-Qaeda terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001.
Under George W. Bush’s policy of not distinguishing terrorist organizations from governments or states that give refuge to them, the United States invaded Afghanistan with the purpose of finding Osama Bin Laden and other Al-Qaeda members in leadership roles to bring them to trial, destroy the Al-Qaeda organization and remove the Taliban from power for providing support and shelter to terrorists.
By the end of December 2001, the United Nations had initiated the operation of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to secure Afghanistan’s capitol, Kabul and areas surrounding it, although control of the ISAF was taken over by NATO in 2003.
While the Taliban was removed from power in the initial attack, they have regained enough strength since then to continue to cause instability in Afghanistan through insurgent activities. The south and east of Afghanistan remain hotbeds of insurgency and with Afghanistan’s porous border with Pakistan, Al-Qaeda members and pro-Taliban insurgents pass between the two countries, forming a link between the conflict in Afghanistan and Northwestern Pakistan’s conflict in Peshawar valley.
In December 2009, the President of the United States, Barack Obama announced a troop surge in Afghanistan in an attempt to stabilize the country and other NATO members also agreed to contribute more troops. By the middle of 2010, U.S. and NATO forces will number approximately 140,000 soldiers. There will also be around 130,000 to 160,000 private contractors in Afghanistan engaged in logistics, providing food, security, transportation and construction among other services. Also working in Afghanistan are dozens of Non-Government Organizations, ranging from the World Health Organization and UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency) to Oxfam, the Red Cross and the Red Crescent.
As an active conflict zone, Afghanistan is a potentially dangerous place and not just for soldiers. To date, approximately 1,721 soldiers from 27 ISAF nations have lost their lives in the war in Afghanistan and approximately 4,800 coalition troops have been seriously injured. In addition, the number of Afghan troops estimated to have been killed is 8,587 with a further 25,761 Afghan soldiers having been seriously injured. The civilian populace of Afghanistan has also suffered, with an estimated 8,453 civilians having died since the beginning of the war and 15,215 civilians have been seriously injured. The majority of deaths, including civilians, come from attacks from armed insurgent groups in the form of skirmishes, RPG attacks, suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) planted on the roadside or in vehicles. However, there is an alarming about of civilian deaths associated with coalition air strikes.
It is not only troops and civilians that find themselves in the line of fire; contractors and NGO employees may also be caught in the crossfire, or become targets themselves. While exact numbers are unknown, some estimates from April 2009 put the number of contractor deaths at 298 with more than 2,428 serious casualties. NGO workers providing humanitarian assistance are also not immune. Although the number of NGO staff killed in 2009 was down from 2008, with 19 deaths (all local Afghans) down from 31 deaths (25 local and 6 international staff), the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office (ANSO) says that there may be increased risks to NGO staff members in 2010. ANSO warns that if NGOs are perceived as no longer being neutral by armed groups, such as by engaging in humanitarian efforts after coalition forces have secured an area, they may become targets for abductions, RPG and IED attacks. Given the number of people working in Afghanistan and the potential for violent injury, it is important that employees are fully covered by a war and terrorism health insurance policy.
Considering the fact that Afghanistan has been in a state of civil war since the end of the 1970s, the nation’s healthcare system is in dire straits indeed. Most trained medical professionals left the country between the 1980s and 1990s, and programs for medical training were closed down. Afghanistan has one of the world’s highest mortality rates for both infants and children under the age of 5. It is estimated that more than half of Afghan children under the age of 5 are malnourished. Maternity care has also suffered, leaving Afghanistan with some of the highest maternity mortality rates on earth, and 80% of pregnant women giving birth without assistance from skilled healthcare workers.
In 2003, there were 18 nurses and 11 physicians for every 100,000 people in Afghanistan and in 2004 there was one medical facility for every 27,000 Afghans. There is a critical lack of healthcare infrastructure leaving international organizations providing large amounts medical care to the populace. These systemic shortfalls are compounded by the fact that Afghanistan has poor sanitation and a lack of safely drinkable water, meaning that diarrhea, malaria and other infectious and parasitic diseases are fairly common.
As it stands today, hospitals in Afghanistan simply do not have the capacity to properly care for the populace; the kinds of health services available are also limited due to a lack of diagnostic technology in the country and a lack of capably trained medical professionals. The general level in standards in both public and private hospitals in Afghanistan is considered well below international standards, with post-operative complications and infections being fairly common. Neural, cardiac and spinal column related surgeries are generally unavailable in the country, with the possible exception of military coalition clinics and field hospitals, although patients requiring these surgeries are better off seeking medical care outside of Afghanistan. Therefore, if you are intending to travel or work in Afghanistan in any capacity, it is recommended you have an international insurance policy which can cover you in case of potential violence or medical evacuation.
Pacific Prime works with a wide variety of the world’s best international health insurance companies. We can advise you on a number of policies which would cover you in case of acts of war or terrorism in Afghanistan or in other zones of conflict around the world, ensuring that you will get the best medical care regardless of what happens. To speak to an advisor about health insurance policies covering acts of war and terrorism, or to receive a free quote, please contact us today.