Fareed Ullah has crossed Afghanistan’s border to Pakistan 10 occasions for remedy for his three-year-old son, Taha, who has thalassaemia main, an inherited blood dysfunction. Up till the Taliban takeover in August he had by no means skilled an issue, however when he tried to transit through the Torkham crossing late final month, he was stopped by the Taliban from getting into.

Docs and members of the family of sufferers say conventions on the border have modified for the reason that Taliban takeover, which has made it tougher for Afghan sufferers to hunt lifesaving care in Pakistan. “There is no such thing as a system, nonetheless,” mentioned Ijaz Ali Khan, the founder and chairman of Hamza Basis, a charity organisation in Peshawar that gives remedy for thalassaemia and different blood issues.

Afghans have discovered it tougher to cross the border with Pakistan for the reason that Taliban takeover

Afghanistan’s healthcare system, which already suffered from a scarcity of specialized medical doctors and well-equipped amenities, has been critically wounded. Funding cuts from worldwide donors have led to a dearth of medical provides and tools. Some medical doctors left in the course of the early days of the Taliban rule, and others misplaced jobs at hospitals that might not afford to pay them. The pinnacle of the World Well being Group mentioned late final month that Afghanistan’s well being system was on the point of collapse.

Earlier than the Taliban took over, sufferers from Afghanistan frequently crossed into Pakistan for remedy. Peshawar, a metropolis simply over 30 miles (50 km) from the Torkham crossing, has acquired giant numbers of Afghan sufferers up to now at charity hospitals that have been arrange partially to deal with individuals injured in preventing throughout the border. Attributable to blood provide shortages and restricted numbers of remedy centres for thalassaemia and haemophilia inside Afghanistan, individuals with these issues additionally routinely search care in Pakistan.

Passage to Pakistan for these sufferers was not beforehand a problem, Khan mentioned. Hamza Basis would challenge a letter saying that the affected person was coming to Pakistan to obtain remedy. Because the basis is a well known entity within the area, border officers on either side would allow them to cross with ease.

“They’d enable all of the sufferers. However now they don’t seem to be permitting,” mentioned Dr Tariq Khan, the medical director at Hamza Basis.

Doctors attend to patients at Hamza Foundation on 29 September in Peshawar, Pakistan.
Docs attend to sufferers at Hamza Basis on 29 September in Peshawar, Pakistan. {Photograph}: Betsy Joles

When Abdul Latif Hashmi tried to cross on the Chaman-Spin Boldak crossing along with his 50-year-old mom, he was stopped and questioned by Taliban members who didn’t imagine he was taking her to the hospital in Pakistan. “They’d hit us on the border,” he mentioned of the Taliban. “They mentioned we have been going abroad, not for medical care.”

Within the space the place he lives in Herat, in western Afghanistan, Hashmi mentioned there was a scarcity of specialized medical doctors who might deal with his mom, which is why he determined to take her to Pakistan for most cancers remedy in a hospital in Karachi. Since final November, he had crossed from Chaman-Spin Boldak along with his mom each two to a few months with out challenge. This time, Hashmi and his mom waited on the border for six days earlier than they paid a smuggler there to assist them get throughout.

Pakistan is technically permitting passage for sufferers from Afghanistan looking for medical care, however the nation has additionally tightened its border protocols for the reason that Taliban takeover, which has made transit way more sophisticated. Torkham permits entry solely to Afghans with legitimate journey paperwork. Chaman, which normally permits transit for Afghans from sure areas close to the border, has additionally began imposing visa guidelines extra strictly. Each crossings have been closed intermittently over the previous two months.

At Torkham, one other consequence of the Taliban takeover is a delay for households ready to obtain the our bodies of family members who died overseas. A personal ambulance driver mentioned he used to have the ability to carry our bodies straight throughout the border however now should watch for clearance from the Taliban to shift the corpse to a car ready on the opposite aspect.

Ullah estimated there have been 150 sufferers with pressing medical issues together with most cancers, coronary heart issues, and thalassaemia who have been additionally ready within the space of the border the place he stayed on the Afghan aspect. Among the many Hamza Basis sufferers who have been initially blocked from crossing into Pakistan was a pregnant girl whose foetus later examined constructive for thalassaemia.

Ambulances on the Pakistan side wait for approval to hand over bodies of Afghan nationals.
Ambulances on the Pakistan aspect watch for approval handy over our bodies of Afghan nationals. {Photograph}: Betsy Joles

Ullah was ultimately in a position to make it throughout the border with the assistance of a Pakistani physician who facilitated his crossing. Docs at Hamza Basis say most thalassaemia main sufferers want blood transfusions each 20-30 days. Taha has wanted transfusions since he was eight months previous.

After his lengthy journey, Ullah has to resolve if he ought to keep in Pakistan for the following few weeks between appointments or threat returning to Afghanistan between his daughter’s therapies.

Hamza Basis has appealed to each the Taliban and the Pakistani authorities for assist with different sufferers on this state of affairs. “We’re simply interesting as people. On a humanitarian foundation, you need to enable them,” Khan, the muse’s founder mentioned. “If we is not going to present them the blood for one month, they’ll die. Their life is completely depending on blood. They’re like fish. When you take the fish from the water, what is going to occur?”

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