22-year-old Sharifa is one of the thousands of Afghan mothers struggling to overcome the hurdles that are posed by a healthcare system weakened by decades of war, poor facilities, and social and cultural barriers that are difficult to break.
August 6, 2015
It’s Thursday night and we’re all outside our rooms, pulled out of bed by a deafening explosion just a few kilometres away.
We had only just gone to bed. Friday is our day off here: the only day we have, here at EMERGENCY, to catch our breath. Like every Thursday, we had spent the evening together, relaxing and chatting.
“Relax, guys, you’ll see, we’ll only get a few patients. Nobody is out and about in Kabul at this hour,” I say to reassure the team.
Maybe there aren’t any wounded, maybe the attempted attack failed, I say to myself.
Nothing could have been further from the truth.
They call us from the hospital, the first 5 patients have arrived.
We discover immediately the force of the explosion: a lorry loaded with explosives was blown up in a residential neighbourhood.
Like an earthquake, it destroyed everything within its reach. Houses are torn away, crumpled down. The closest ones exist no more, they are unrecognisable. All that is left is a pile of rubble.
The patients start to arrive at a constant flow of 7–8 people. There are so many, too many. We count 92. Our hospital has about 100 beds.
Fortunately, our initial triage shows that many are only superficially injured.
They are horrified and scared but they don’t need to be operated.
In the end, 42 people need to be admitted to our hospital, which is already overloaded with patients from the previous days.
To admit everyone, we have to reorganise the structure. We look for free beds and rooms that can temporarily become wards.
Everything is done simultaneously, everything organised in a such a way that everyone knows immediately what to do, where to position themselves, what tasks to carry out.
Everyone has a role, like the mechanism of an engine that is being pushed to its maximum potential.
In the end, we find a bed for everyone. Meanwhile, we examine the patients with less serious wounds and do not need to be
admitted. There are about 50 and we examine one after another, we medicate them, we reassure them about their condition.
One-by-one, they leave the hospital.
Dawn breaks. All that is left are the stories, tales, and shocked expressions of the wounded who came here.
There are those who were luckier and those who lost everything, like Assad, a 20 year-old. His house was near the explosion:
it was pulverized. He was the only one in his family to survive.
It’s time to go home now, a group at a time, to take a shower, have a cup of coffee and come back to the hospital. Maybe tomorrow we will be able to sleep. Maybe. Afghanistan, a country that has been at war for too long, gives no guarantees or certainties. One minute it seems calm, then you turn to find yourself in the middle of a nightmare.
“Relax, guys, you’ll see, we’ll only get a few patients. Nobody is out and about in Kabul at this hour.” My words are still ringing in my ears…
Luca, EMERGENCY Programme Coordinator in Afghanistan