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.
Last week, we lost Koko Akbar, gardener at our Kabul hospital. He had been working for EMERGENCY since April 2001.
‘Grandpa’ Akbar was a legend. No one knew his age exactly, but a lot of people said he was almost 100 years old.
In a grey city like Kabul, it makes us happy to know that the beautiful garden at our hospital is a key part of treatment for patients working hard to go back to their old lives. Credit for this goes to Koko Akbar, with his great passion for gardening.
In July, he came to back to work after a long illness. He was happy to be here again. He shouted at all the younger workers straight away because, according to him, they hadn’t ‘looked after his roses properly’. One day, after about a month, he fainted and was taken to first aid. He said he started to feel ill while he was arranging flowers in vases.
As the car was taking him home to rest, Koko Akbar asked his colleagues through the window to finish arranging the flowers he was taking care of. A big crowd of staff came to see him off. That was the last time we saw him.
The flag above the hospital is at half-mast in his memory.
— Michele, EMERGENCY coordinator in Kabul, Afghanistan