Afghan Health Volunteers

The Guardian reports on how volunteers are filling the massive gaps existing in the Afghani Health Service. These Community Health Workers (CHW’s) number more than 22,000 provide essential healthcare in a country in which the infant mortality rate and life expectancy are among the lowest in the world. The volunteers receive free training:

Every community health volunteer/worker undergoes a six-month, free-of-charge, health ministry training course which equips them to provide basic and emergency health services and advice.”

However the Guardian article highlights the interrelated problems of the volunteers being overworked and overstretched, whilst at the same time beginning to question why they are working for no financial remuneration. This situation sheds light on two important issues surrounding volunteering: the important role that volunteers can play in a country where government power is weak, but also the fact that in key areas, volunteers alone are no substitute for state-funded services. If a State is unable or unwilling to fulfil key duties then under-resourced volunteers are not a long-term solution.

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