By Yelena Shuster, KF 11, Azerbaijan

Being a loan officer has its perilous moments. The scary Caucasian shepherd dogs that guard client’s homes and threaten to bite you and the difficult to find addresses of remote properties that one must search for in the unrelenting summer heat are obstacles. Then there are the numerous unforeseen hazards one encounters trying to go the extra mile as a loan officer…

Last week one of our loan officers at Komak went to meet a new client, a tomato farmer from the Absheron region. To get a better picture of the borrower’s greenhouse for his Kiva profile, Emin climbed on the roof of a 3 meter high building. Then he slipped and fell onto the hard pavement below, shattering his ankle completely.

I wish I knew more about the state of medical care in Azerbaijan. When I saw Emin in the hospital last week he was reluctant to tell me details. He was sharing a small sunny room with another man, who’s chatty wife laughed at my inquiries about the hospital. After I’d told her about the insurance system we have in the United States she said, “So it’s the same, without money one doesn’t get treatment.” “Almost” I insisted, “except in the US one is guaranteed treatment in the emergency room but may end up with debt of hundreds of thousands of dollars or lose their house.” She nodded her head disapprovingly.

A colleague from Komak brought Emin his salary (Emin will be paid while he is not working because it’s a work related injury) which was to be used for paying the nurses and doctors. Supposedly, each time a nurse comes to give an injection, she must be “tipped.”

“And what if he doesn’t tip her?” I asked. “In that case the injection will hurt more…” came the reply.

For the next 3-4 months our dear Emin will be unable to walk. He’ll work from home in his other official capacity, as Komak’s IT guy.

In Azerbaijan, there is no such thing as preventative medicine. People visit doctors only when the problems become extreme and cannot not be self-medicated. In Baku, the capital, pharmacies are everywhere and no prescription is needed to acquire medication.

According to a study from 2008, “The emergency medical system surveyed in Azerbaijan is inefficiently organized, under-financed, poorly equipped and lacks adequately trained staff.”

The findings of [the study] demonstrate a lack of emergency medical capacity not only in disaster situations, but also in routine emergency cases. Most hospitals cannot provide an adequate response if multiple critical patients present simultaneously. Additionally, most life-threatening situations cannot be treated adequately due to a lack of critical equipment and medications, and inadequate training of medical personnel in evidence-based emergency medicine.

I have one week left with Komak and I am pleased to write that my experience has been great. The director, Aydin, calls himself my “moral father in Azerbaijan,” and my colleagues treat me with respect and care. I appreciate the efforts they made to make sure I secured a visa before I arrived in Azerbaijan (major issue for many foreigner volunteers in this country) and the help they provided in obtaining a registration card here. I’ve enjoyed chatting with Afitab, the young Kiva coordinator, who’s helped me see deeper into Azerbaijani culture.

Since coming to Komak in May, I’ve seen their Kiva portfolio almost double and I am very happy about this. Through Kiva, Komak has the opportunity to serve more entrepreneurs for whom access to credit are obstacles (though not the only ones) to prosperity. At the present time, there are two loans set to expire on Kiva within the next 2 days. If you’re interested in helping Azerbaijan support our  borrowers.


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