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Beacon of Light for Medical Clinic

During a visit to a northern district of Kandahar Province this past fall, I met with a Civil Affairs Team (CAT)who identified a need to install solar panel lights at a medical clinic so the staff could continue treating patients after dark. The facility is essentially comprised of only a small hard structure with an adjacent tent, neither of which has electricity. One of the villagers, Abdul Assim, took it upon himself to establish this clinic on his own property so that local men, women, and children could seek basic care without having to travel to a major city. An Afghan health NGO currently pays for a few provisions as well as the salaries of the small staff (nurse, doctor, and pharmacist) but does not fund infrastructure improvements. According to the CA team leader, this is the first and only treatment center open to the public in the district.

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When we asked the employees what their biggest priority was, they said it was the need to have illumination in the evenings. If someone came in for an emergency at night, the medical personnel would have to work under the glow of a small rechargeable lamp or flashlight that was simply not suitable for those types of critical situations. Further, they would have to wait until the next morning to finish administrative tasks and fill out patient forms since adequate lighting was not available. The site has a small generator, but it is built into a refrigerator to keep vaccines cold and thus cannot be implemented to supply additional power for anything else. Since fuel procurement is also a persistent issue, the workers requested an alternate solution.

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With support from Spirit of America, the CAT was able to bring light to the center. The team hired a contractor who wired the hardened building for electricity. He also set up 3 solar panels which now provide power to increase the clinic's capacity. According to the U.S. team leader, "Upon inspection we found that the work was better than we had expected. Where we envisioned one light bulb in each room, the contractor installed two per room and each room was fitted with a switch which includes an outlet for charging small items. Needless to say the staff at the clinic was very happy and very grateful to SOA for their generosity and assistance. Thank you for getting these funds so that we could fill this need in the district."

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The doctor, nurse, and pharmacist are very committed to their craft and strive to help whomever they can. As an added benefit to making the medical employees' work more manageable and productive, this project gives the U.S. troops an opportunity to build the locals' trust which is particularly important in an area suffering from heavy Taliban influence. The gesture of goodwill provides incentive for the villagers to cooperate with the American military and their Afghan counterparts as it demonstrates the security forces' willingness to support them and enable the clinic for the betterment of the community.

Chrissy Burbach
Afghanistan Field Rep