Dr Mohammad Khakerah Rashidi studied MSc Public Health in Developing Countries in 2004. He is currently Country Representative for MSH Afghanistan, Project Director at TB CARE I, Afghanistan, First Vice Chair at CCM Afghanistan (Global Fund) and Senior Lecturer at Zawul Institute of Higher Education.
“I had long practical experience in the Public Health field during the war and internal conflict between 1986-2001 working with different organisations. Working with International health partners gave the idea to study more and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine was one of my dreams since I had been working with a few alumni from the School. I was thinking that I will be more productive if I get better knowledge of public health besides my own practice. There were huge health problems and less access to primary health services countrywide. Mostly the supporting agencies were focusing on the border areas of Pakistan-Afghanistan since the supporter’s main offices were located in Peshawar Pakistan. I was the only medical doctor for more than a million people in the North East and was trying to get support to the neediest people in northern Afghanistan. I got the scholarship with the support of my international colleagues to study in 2003-2004, I then returned to the country to provide better support to my people.
When I left for London, it was my first trip to Europe. I had challenges with cultural adaptability, food, being out of the country and worrying about my family, especially children. But the biggest challenge was studying in English. I had studied school and university in Dari/Farsi and English was my third language. I lost more than 10 Kg in weight. My friends supported me, and I got used to the culture, study and assignments. I studied a lot during the weekends and late nights. After the first term I got better since I had good experience in the field with Public Health, and dealing with health in conflict situations. Students were listening to me and asking me a lot of questions.
When I returned from the School in 2004, I was the only Afghan with MSc Public Health in the country. I was asked by many international agencies to work with them and to support the Ministry of Health. Despite this good market I chose MSH Afghanistan (Management Sciences for Health Afghanistan) since I wanted to closely work with the MoPH (Ministry of Public Health Afghanistan) and support them in the policy and strategy development. I joined MSH as a Public Health Management Advisor supporting different departments, and since 2004 have continued my career in different positions as you can see by my title.
I had very kind classmates and I found that there was huge potential for me getting help from my classmates, tutor and lecturers. My classmates and friends made life easy for me and I felt that I am not alone in this world. There are international communities interested in Afghanistan and the Afghan people. It gave me more hope to struggle and do better. The best example could be that myself and a classmate presented our experiences from Afghanistan and Iraq to the Health in Conflict course members and it was appreciated by the school and class. I heard about experiences from other parts of the world and I also learnt that Afghanistan is not the only country with problems, there are many similar countries around.
My biggest achievement is being beside my people and supporting in re-designing and structuring the health system. We have supported the MoPH in developing and applying more than 100 policies, strategies, protocols and SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) and we learned together by doing, and training other health professionals. There has been a huge reduction in child and maternal mortality due to the past 10 year’s interventions and I am proud being part of such a team.
Due to my great contribution to the re-design and support to the newly established Health System in the country, MoPH leadership selected me as the Afghan Health Hero in 2007 among the health professionals supporting the MoPH.
Also we tried to strengthen the Civil Society Organisation (CSO) and established the Afghanistan National Public Health Association, where we have gathered all Public Health professionals with academic degrees and had great input and contribution to the health system through MoPH, media and gathering health professionals for public health lectures, supporting different organisations and taking the voice of Afghanistan internationally.
Together with other health professionals I also established the Governance Institute for Afghanistan (GIA), conducted many researches and implemented health programmes in the country.
Lastly I established a private university in Kabul (Zawul Institute of Higher Education) consisting of four faculties, Health, Law, Economy and Computer Science. I serve as founding member of the university and am in charge of the Public Health Department.
I am committed to working for the most needy people of the world (Afghans) and my vision is to see healthy Afghans and a peaceful Afghanistan.”