News: Female Afghan general visits hospital in Paktya
Story by Sgt. Spencer Case
PAKTYA PROVINCE, Afghanistan - Afghan National Army Brig. Gen. Rahimi Razia, chief nurse of the ANA, visited Paktya Regional Medical Hospital Oct. 17 - 20 to examine the facility and speak with patients and medical practitioners there.
Razia represents nurses on the general’s staff at the ANA Office of the Surgeon General and helps construct policy that governs the ANA hospital system, which includes five regional hospitals in Kabul, Herat, Kandahar, Paktya and Mazar-e-Sharif.
During her trip to Paktya, Razia examined the health standards of the dining facility, attended a lecture on burns and had a round table discussion with the Afghan nurses at the hospital to understand their concerns.
Razia was impressed with what she saw at the hospital, located on Forward Operating Base Thunder. On Oct. 20, she distributed certificates of appreciation to the nurses, the hospital commander and the hospital deputy commander.
“The good things I saw here included the friendship with the nurses with each other and the leadership,” Razia said through the aid of an interpreter. “Also, I found that the hospital was very clean … this is the best hospital I’ve seen in my visit [so far].”
U.S. Air Force Col. Karen L. Sclafani, Razia’s coalition advisor who accompanied her on the trip, said, “The nurses were very happy and very, very motivated to see her and (Razia) is going to take their concerns back with her.”
Among the concerns expressed by the nurses were pay and promotion issues. Also, like many other hospitals in Afghanistan, the distance from the major population centers can make it difficult to obtain basic medical supplies and even hygiene items like soap and shampoo.
The logistical issues are complicated by the ANA’s willingness to treat civilians in dire situations, she said.
In addition to giving attention to those problems, the trip helped Razia foster greater confidence and assertiveness as a female leader, said Sclafani, who is a resident of Middletown, N.J.
Razia boasts 36 years of experience as a military nurse.
Razia was born and raised in Panjshir province. After completing her secondary school, she moved to Kabul with her family and enrolled in nursing school, which she completed in three years.
“I grew up in an open-minded family,” she said. “That’s why I will do my duty—even to death—for Afghanistan.”
Razia has seen her share of clinical work in the midst of conflict. She remained in the military throughout the Russian invasion, the infighting between the mujahedeen that followed the Soviet withdrawal, the rise and reign of the Taliban and the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.
One of her many harrowing experiences came in 1993 after the Soviet withdrawal had left a power vacuum in Afghanistan.
Razia said after the conflict had knocked out the electricity of the hospital, she continued working day and night by candlelight for weeks on end.
Sclafani said Razia enjoyed the trip, which was only her second since Razia and her family moved to Kabul in the 1970s, her first being in August when she visited the ANA hospital in Kandahar.
Razia now looks forward to making an upcoming second trip to Kandahar, as well as subsequent trips to the other ANA regional hospitals at Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif.
Sclafani added Razia has also made progress against her fear of speaking, a fear grounded in Afghan attitudes toward women in positions of authority.
“I try to encourage her to speak her mind to make policy changes, and that’s what we’re working on now,” Sclafani said.
Razia is disposed to share credit.
“I’ve got a good mentor, Col. Sclafani,” she said. “I learn from her experience and she learns from mine and we work together to improve nursing in Afghanistan.”