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.
‘Mine injuries,’ I read on the chart on their beds. E. and N. are nine and 10 years old. War robbed them of their childhood in an instant.
E. comes from a village in the Panjshir Valley. He was playing in a field near his house when he picked something up off the ground and it blew up.
Not long after the explosion, his father brought him to our hospital in Anabah, where we gave him first aid. Once he was stable, we transferred him here, to Kabul.
Thanks to that game that went horribly wrong, E. lost his right eye and three fingers from his left hand. His body was left covered in wounds with a high risk of infection, which is why we have to bring him into the operating theatre every time we treat him. It’s only there, under sedation, that his injured body can be taken care of.
N. was also hit by one of these cowardly devices. Like E., he came with his father, but from a village in the province of Herat, near the Iranian border. He had lost both eyes, his nose and part of his jaw. His abdomen, arms and legs were littered with wounds. I come to N.’s ward during the morning check-ups and find him crying and complaining about the pain he’s in. And who could possibly understand that pain?
N. stops crying when his father comes over, whispers something comforting in his ear and strokes his head. The man already lost his daughter last year and his work as a farmer doesn’t bring in much to live on. The boy he’s taking care of so tenderly is perhaps the only hope he has left.
Neither of the two fathers leaves his son’s side, whether it’s in the ward, at their physiotherapy sessions or when they need help eating. On the warmer December days, they bring their boys out for a turn round the hospital garden, which is where I bump into them every afternoon. I see the two fathers talk, presumably about their shared pain. Perhaps they’re trying to support each other, to get through this.
There’s one thing I’m sure of and that’s the pure, gentle love that exists between a father and son. Just for a moment, it gives you a glimpse of beauty amid the horror of this war.
Caterina, EMERGENCY staff member