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.
‘What price am I paying? I’m scared, always scared. I look at myself in the mirror and I feel older than I really am.’
Hedayat is 38 years old. He’s been working as a surgeon at EMERGENCY’s Surgical Centre for War Victims in Kabul for 14 years.
‘If you want to understand this country, just look at the faces of the people here and the number of patients in this hospital. No one is safe. And people have lost all hope. They are losing faith in things getting better. We are all resigned to it. And I’m in a lot of pain.
‘There was a time when the mood in Afghanistan was very different. But a few years ago, it all changed. Everybody wants to escape. A lot of them already have.
‘I’m scared to leave the house every day. One day, after I finished my shift at the hospital, I saw a car coming up to me very fast. All I could think in that moment was, ‘OK, it’s over this time.’ I didn’t move a millimetre. I told myself, ‘It’s better to die straight away than suffer in hospital and experience the misery I see every day at work.’
‘The car didn’t hit me that day. But every minute I’m scared of dying, suddenly and for no reason.
‘Because living here means living in fear. Having no hope for the future. These last few years, I’ve seen too much pain through these eyes. Not just my own pain, but everyone’s. That’s not normal, and it never will be.
‘Every patient we admit to this hospital is like a new wound to my soul.
‘But I decided to stay. I’m doing it for my family, for my mother, father and children, for my people. Even if the price I pay to stay here is still so high.
‘I’m staying here, because I like what I do and I want to bring hope to my community.’
Our surgeon Hedayat’s story, along with those of other patients treated at our Surgical Centre in Kabul, was listened to and documented by journalist Francesca Mannocchi and photographer Alessio Romenzi.