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.
In 1999, we began working in a country scarred by war and violence, Afghanistan. In Kabul, Laskhar-Gah, Anabah in the Panjshir valley and our many first-aid centres, we’ve managed to treat more than 6 million people over 20 years of work.
Three people, Yousof, Hedayatullah and Mobin, have helped us tirelessly in that work. Here, through their words, we’ll show you how we’re still managing, thanks in part to them, to offer a chance of peace in a country where war seems never-ending. Follow this blog every week to read all their stories.
“It was Dr Hazim, a senior surgeon and a colleague of mine, who told me about EMERGENCY for the first time, and suggested that I start working at the Surgical Centre for War Victims, here in Kabul”.
Yousof joined our staff in 2006 as a ward nurse, but his enthusiasm and can-do attitude soon earned him a position in the Intensive Care Unit, and then in the Operating Theatre.
Today, he is the ICU team leader, but also a sports fan. Outside the hospital, he combines his work ethic with an interest in Taekwondo. Although the war in Afghanistan makes it difficult to live a day-to-day life with any sense of normality, Yousof continues to offer regular Taekwondo classes to young children.
“Life conditions in Afghanistan are getting worse by the day… I’m more worried than ever about the safety of my family and the children I train. One day an explosion occurred a stone’s throw away a class I was teaching – thankfully, no one was hurt.”
The professional growth that Yousof has experienced in our hospital fills him with pride, and gives him all the determination he needs to wake up every morning and devote himself to helping victims of war in his country.
Yousof, we’re so proud of you!
If we were to count up all the people who have worked alongside us at our Surgical Centre for War Victims in Kabul, one of the first names on the list would be Hedayatullah.
Hedayatullah has been with us since day one – or rather, since day zero.
“Nineteen years ago, EMERGENCY was looking to open a hospital in Kabul, and was looking for staff. The news caught our attention – it’s not something that happens every day.”
That’s his first memory of us. Our first memory of him is in the form of the written test and the two interviews he had to pass to make it through the hiring process and join our staff.
“I started off working in the Intensive Care Unit as a nurse, but asked to be transferred to the clinic so I could have more flexible shifts and make more time for my studies. I’d always dreamed of specialising in pharmacy.”
At the end of his studies, Hedayatullah was officially made the head of the hospital’s pharmacy. While he was in that role, he told us about a job offer he’d received. We pleaded with him to stay and continue his journey with us, and today, we’re still able to count on his professionalism.
His commitment and his perseverance are something we never want to go without.
“I first met Gino Strada and his colleagues in 1998. EMERGENCY was planning to open its first hospital in Afghanistan…” begins Mobin.
Our founder, Dr Gino Strada, had decided to open a project in the country, assisting and treating victims of war. We started in the village of Anabah, in the Panjshir Valley, two hundred kilometres North of Kabul. Here, decades of war had left its mark on the landscape, and on the daily lives of the locals.
Once a site had been chosen – the ruins of a former military academy – we decided to build a Surgical Centre, and asked Mobin for his help: “We’d like you to join our staff as a nurse,” we told him. And he accepted.
Now he’s in charge of the nursing staff in the operating room in our hospital in Kabul, but we will always consider him one of the ‘pioneers’ of our work in Afghanistan: after Anabah, Mobin started working in our hospital in Kabul and in 2004, when we decided to open our second Surgical Centre for War Victims in Lashkar-Gah, Mobin helped us get the project off the ground.
For civilians in Afghanistan, fear and insecurity are now a part of everyday life, even for Mobin, when he thinks about his children’s future – but he overcomes them with his courage and his commitment.
More than 20 years have passed, and despite the daily risks he faces, Mobin is still by our side.