Our history

In 1984 a young British doctor returned from Afghanistan with a profound understanding of the connection between health and poverty.

He wrote a vivid account of life in remote communities in the mountains of Afghanistan for the Guardian newspaper, depicting malnutrition, frequent child deaths and people walking for nine days to see a doctor.

Many suffered from diseases of malnutrition. With low resistance to infection, TB was rife, and the infant mortality rate horrendous.

He described the lack of support for people there, and how development organisations were unable to help because they were either not able or not willing to face the ‘political hot potato’.

There is apparently no central government funding for the hospitals and schools… Medical care is non-existent for most… Only the richest can afford a course of TB treatment costing £20 to £30.

At the end of the article was his phone number and a request that anyone interested in strengthening health services in Afghanistan contact him. The responses were overwhelming.

Doctors, nurses and development workers assembled to become the first Health Poverty Action staff (then known as Health Unlimited) and set up an organisation that would stand in partnership with marginalised communities for decades to come.