Deutschland: Karla Schefter

Over every mountain there is a path.

— Karla Schefter

“Over every mountain there is a path.” Is there a better way to describe Karla Schefter’s humanitarian work in Afghanistan than to quote this Afghan proverb? She faced countless “mountains,” and still managed to find a path over every one. With her unusual courage, enormous stamina, and seemingly inexhaustible perseverance as well as great personal sacrifice, she created her lifework, the Chak-e-Wardak-Hospital in Afghanistan. For the past 15 years, she has managed this hospital, which has provided thousands of people, especially women and children, with desperately needed medical care.

The story begins with Karla Schefter working in Afghanistan as a surgical nurse in a team from Germany some 20 years ago. The misery she saw left her no peace. After returning to Germany, she devised a plan to open a hospital in the country’s rural area. With untiring persistence, she collected donations for the project, personally took the money to Afghanistan, and began to build a medical unit in the western Wardak province. From these modest beginnings and after many setbacks, a hospital emerged that cares for some 4200 patients every month, 70 percent of them women and children. Often accompanied by their relatives, people come from far away to seek medical care, and all are given accommodation. In return, the relatives are asked to offer some form of help, whether working in the kitchen or the gardens or assisting in keeping the facilities clean. The hospital's doctors and nurses deliver babies, treat internal diseases, perform surgery, organize vaccine campaigns, and provide dental and optical services. Teams of physicians travel to Wardak to offer temporary help by conducting examinations or performing surgery. Another focus of the work is training local personnel, especially women, as nurses, traditional birth attendants, and physiotherapists. Upon completion of their education, these people either stay in the hospital or work with other organizations, such as the World Health Organization. Karla Schefter’s commitment to helping the needy in Afghanistan’s mountainous areas is recognized and respected in Afghanistan and worldwide, and she has received several honors for this work. No setback – whether it be fighting in the vicinity of her hospital, difficulties with supplies, illness, or personal persecution – could halt this admirable woman from pursuing her goal to secure humane medical care in a remote region of this country still rife with suffering.

Chak-e-Wardak-Hospital Committee for the Promotion of Medical and Humanitarian Aid to Afghanistan