Afghanistan war victims undergoing stress

By Anna Varfolomeeva

BEIJING— (October 14 —M4relay) — Scarred by decades of war, social problems and poverty, more than 60 percent of Afghanistan’s 28 million population suffer from stress disorders and mental health problems, according to AFP.

“This is a major problem,” Suraya Dalil, Afghanistan’s acting public health minister, told reporters in Kabul on World Mental Health Day. “More than 60 percent of Afghans are suffering from stress disorders and mental problems,” Dalil said. Extreme poverty, insecurity, violence and gender disparities are the major factors contributing to worsening mental health in Afghanistan,” he added.

“There are only 200 beds for psychiatric services in the country, with only two psychiatrists in the country covering the entire population,” World Health Organization (WHO) representative Peter Graaff said.

Public health ministry spokesman Ghulam Sakhi Kargar Noryghli said the 60 percent estimate dated from a study carried out with the WHO in 2004. “Since war has continued, poverty or economic problems have increased in some parts of the country. We believe that the number of those suffering from mental illnesses has increased and now it is more than 60 percent,” he said.

According to the data provided by the Sarajevo Center for Victims of Torture, adequate medical care is seldom available in war and post-war countries. Women, as well as men and children, may suffer for years from war-induced health problems without receiving appropriate medical care.

“For the vast majority of those who have experienced the first hand effects of war, they will receive no diagnosis, treatment, therapy or help. The casualties of war are more than those who lose their lives, but also those who survive with maiming, those who survive having experienced the horror of losing loved ones to death or maiming, those who have witnessed death and destruction, those who have fled and left with feelings of cowardice and impotence, those who fired the shots and dropped the bombs, and finally, those who gave the orders. The politicians, being the ones who are ultimately responsible for the decisions to inflict the physical and psychological damage, are normally the furthest removed from exposure to the physical and psychological effects,” Theodore Stickley, an Associate Professor of Mental Health in The University of Nottingham, wrote in his article Shock and Awe: The long-term psychological effects of war.

The situation becomes even more dreadful when we think about all the children who had no childhood and who became the witnesses of different war crimes.

“Millions of children have been bombed, shot at and raped; seen mutilated dead bodies; been present at massacres, murders, tortures and beatings; suffered separation from parents; and lived through events in which they defied death. War and violence are part of day-to-day life for many of the world’s children,” Stickley added.

The war in Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001, as the US military’s Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) that was launched, along with the British military, in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US.

Officially, the purpose of the war was to capture Bin Laden, destroy al Qaeda, and remove the Taliban regime. Keeping in mind the lack of results, the justification of the war has evolved to a mission of democratization and development. Nowadays the troops achieved only one outcome – up to 34,000 civilian deaths.

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