Patients struggle to access effective health care due to ongoing violence, distance, costs and health service performance in Afghanistan

Niamh Nic Carthaigh, Benoit De Gryse, Abdul Sattar Esmati, Barak Nizar, Catherine Van Overloop, Renzo Fricke, Jehan Bseiso, Corinne Baker, Tom Decroo, Mit Philips

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-article


BACKGROUND: The Afghan population suffers from a long standing armed conflict. We investigated patients' experiences of their access to and use of the health services.

METHODS: Data were collected in four clinics from different provinces. Mixed methods were applied. The questions focused on access obstacles during the current health problem and health seeking behaviour during a previous illness episode of a household member.

RESULTS: To access the health facilities 71.8% (545/759) of patients experienced obstacles. The combination of long distances, high costs and the conflict deprived people of life-saving healthcare. The closest public clinics were underused due to perceptions regarding their lack of availability or quality of staff, services or medicines. For one in five people, a lack of access to health care had resulted in death among family members or close friends within the last year.

CONCLUSIONS: Violence continues to affect daily life and access to healthcare in Afghanistan. Moreover, healthcare provision is not adequately geared to meet medical and emergency needs. Impartial healthcare tailored to the context will be vital to increase access to basic and life-saving healthcare.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Health
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)169-175
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Afghanistan
  • Ambulatory Care Facilities/standards
  • Armed Conflicts
  • Costs and Cost Analysis
  • Female
  • Health Personnel/standards
  • Health Services/standards
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Violence
  • Young Adult

Cite this