Life improves for Kuchi nomads
29 April 2009 - It is a rainy day in Kabul. The journey for Khial Baboo through muddy and unpaved roads on the outskirts of Kabul is an exhausting one.
Besides she has been carrying her grandchild who is seriously ill to the clinic in Butkhak, a district in the east of capital.
Khial Baboo, a Kuchi (nomad) woman, lives with her eight children in Butkhak. Every time her children get sick she travels that long to a small two-room clinic, the only one in the district.
Haji Musa Khan, 65, also has come to the clinic but he lives nearer and has walked only two hours. He has kidney problems and was very happy to receive medicine free of cost at the clinic.
Another woman, a widower and the mother of five girls and two boys has also come to the clinic. “I am happy that the medicine is free in this clinic as I cannot afford paying for medicine,” said the widower.
Kuchis are a nomadic tribe, predominantly Pashtuns, the largest tribe in Afghanistan. The exact number of Kuchis is not known as Afghanistan has not conducted any census in the last three decades due to the conflict. Some estimate put their number between 2-3 million.
The Butkhak clinic with a single male doctor has very limited capacity. “I see between 70 to 80 patients a day and patients receive medicine free of charge, “said Ghulam Mohammad the clinic’s doctor.
In recent years the Afghan Government has made increasing efforts to help the Kuchi community. They have 10 representatives in the Wolesi Jirga or Lower House of the Afghan parliament among them three women. There are two Kuchi senators at the Meshrano Jirga or the Upper House of parliament as well.
“We have been able to create, for the first time, a separate directorate to focus on Kuchis’ problems” says Mullah Tarakhil a Kuchi representative in the Woliesi Jirga.
Kuchis have higher maternal and infant mortality rates compared to others due to lack of their access to health services.
Recently the foundation stone of a new 75-bed hospital for Kuchis was laid down in Butkhak. This is the first ever hospital to be built for Kuchis.
Kuchis of the town are very happy about the new hospital. “The hospital will solve Kuchis’ health problems and this is a big step for Kuchis health improvement, said Ghulam Mohammad the clinic’s doctor.
“There have been efforts to improve health conditions for the Kuchi community. The Ministry of Public Health is planning to establish ten clinics on the migration route used by Kuchis,” says Mullah Tarakhil.
“There are also mobile health clinics in different provinces where Kuchis camp” added Mullah Tarakhil.
Afghanistan’s constitution recognises the rights of Kuchis to be provided with shelter.
A town for 82,000 families have been established in Butkhak. More than 30,000 families are already living in the town where there is a high school – the Haji Janat Gul high school.
There are 25 teachers at the school who are teaching more than a thousand students.
“Our people love education. We want the Government to build primary schools in our town,” said Mohammad Nabi, the deputy principle of the school.
By Abdullah Alikhil