Creating a War-Free Space for Children in Lashkar-Gah

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Lashkar-Gah Surgical Center
Afghanistan

“This country is full of children and unfortunately there are many of them in our hospitals too. They are the innocent victims of a war that has nothing to do with them, but they are forced to live and grow with it. It is hard to believe what you see: a child’s coloring book with a photo of men brandishing guns on the cover and a drawing of a man shooting a gun with a child in his arms on the inside. Here the abnormal has become ‘normal.’

Children grow up coloring in men with guns while their families are composed of brothers and sisters who have lost hands or feet, or have even died, and they have no fathers or uncles because they too were killed by bullets or shells or were blown up by a land mine. This isn’t what childhood or adolescence should be like for these children.
EMERGENCY-LASHKARGAH-02 We always try to make their hospital stay less dramatic by playing around with them every day. Thanks to Francesco, the physiotherapist, and Dimitra, the Medical Coordinator, and with the occasional help from the entire international staff, we also try to make the environment more appropriate for their stay, which is sometimes very long.

EMERGENCY-LASHKARGAH-03As such, there are no more white walls in their ward! They need to see images that are age-appropriate, like colorful pictures of funny animals that watch over them and can be seen over their beds. Everything we do is for them, in the hope that we leave a part of ourselves in their hearts just as they do in ours.

Humanity is our ‘weapon.’ Enough of the violence, at least while they are with us.”

– Elena
Anesthesiologist
Lashkar-Gah, Afghanistan

Last Ebola Patient in Sierra Leone Discharged from Hospital

SIERRA-LEONE-EBOLAHooray! Great news from Sierra Leone! Yesterday the last Ebola patient in the country was discharged, completely recovered. This is a huge milestone. But now, the countdown begins: Sierra Leone needs 42 consecutive days with no new cases to be declared officially free of Ebola.

We can only say an enormous thank you to all of the Ebola fighters, both EMERGENCY‘s international/local staff and everyone else, who have worked tirelessly fighting against this virus in the past year. They can now take a well-deserved rest, while still remaining vigilant until the end of the countdown.

To help support our international and local staff at our Ebola Treatment Centers in Sierra Leone

Six Patients Admitted to Kabul Surgical Center after Attack, 260 So Far this Month

7KABUL7 Kabul Surgical Center
Saturday, August 22

“The night ended with 6 admitted, 2 outpatients and one dead on arrival from the attack in the city center. There were also other admissions from the nearby provinces: a four-year-old and a five-year-old from Ghazni, both with shell injuries. Two patients with bullet injuries arrived from Kabul and Sheikhabad and a patient with a shell injury reached our hospital from Faryab.
This month we have admitted 260 people. Right now we have 116 occupied beds and we had to temporarily turn the laundry room into a ward in order to make room for everyone.”

– Michela
EMERGENCY Medical Coordinator
Kabul, Afghanistan

One Night in Kabul

10KABUL_MattiaVelati“Relax, guys. You’ll see, we’ll only get a few patients. Nobody is out and about in Kabul at this hour.”

August 6. It’s a Thursday night and we’re all outside our rooms, pulled out of bed by a deafening explosion just a few kilometers away. We had only just gone to bed. Friday is our day off here, the only day that we at EMERGENCY have 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 think to myself.

Nothing could have been further from the truth. They call us from the hospital, the first five patients have arrived.

We discover immediately the force of the explosion: a lorry loaded with explosives was blown up in a residential neighborhood. Like an earthquake, it destroyed everything within its reach. Houses are torn away, crumpled down. The closest ones don’t exist anymore – they are unrecognizable, 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, and they continue to arrive. 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 on. In the end, 42 people need to be admitted to our hospital, which is already overloaded with patients who arrived on the previous days.

To admit all of them, we have to reorganize the structure. We look for free beds and rooms that can temporarily become wards. Everything is done simultaneously, everything is organized in such a way that everyone knows 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, those who do not need to be admitted. There are about 50, we examine one after another, we treat them, we reassure them about their condition, and 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, who is 20 years 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 still ring in my ears…

– Luca,
EMERGENCY Program Coordinator
Afghanistan

To help provide high standard medical and surgical care free of charge to civilian casualties of escalating violence in Afghanistan

Continually Treating Patients from a Continual War

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Kabul, Afghanistan

“The afternoon is almost over, but days here don’t end when the sun goes down: at night, work in the hospital gets even more intense and the patients never stop arriving. Those who are referred here from one of our First Aid Posts, those who were wounded in the city, those who travelled across half of Afghanistan by car, injured, to reach our hospital. Our hospital in Kabul serves a very extended area and is the referral hospital for war injuries.

All of the provinces that surround Kabul have an EMERGENCY First Aid Post, which is part of the health network we have created.

This approach works. It works really well. I’m thinking about Ghazni for example. It’s one of provinces where fighting is more intense. Every time I see our ambulance from Ghazni arrive at the hospital transporting a patient on a backboard with oxygen, accompanied by a nurse who takes care of the patient during transportation, I am reminded of all the work we have done to create this system, the successes we have achieved, and how all of this is revolutionary in a country where a large part of the population has difficulties in accessing the treatment they need.

It’s the beginning of August. I’m at my computer, compiling the statistics for the month of July.

The numbers I see are surprising. We worked a lot last month, I knew that, but I truly didn’t realize how much: 362 wounded and recovered patients, another 77 who returned to complete their treatment. More than 400 people, patients, wounded entered our system this month and more than 1,000 operations were carried out. It is sad and discouraging: I’ve been in Afghanistan for six years and this is one of the worst months ever.

Yet, a part of me is satisfied. An exceptional group of people have made it so that everything works like clockwork – flawlessly, with no mistakes. Nurses, surgeons, physiotherapists, electricians, radiology technicians… everyone is passionate, everyone is always ready to go the extra mile.

These are the people that have made something that seemed unattainable become possible.

So today I just want to celebrate these people, this passion.
Today I want to forget, only for a moment, the horrors of war.
Today I just want to go home and be satisfied.

But war isn’t listening to me, it doesn’t stop, the wounded continue to arrive.
I’d better put aside my satisfaction and get back to work.”

– Michela,
EMERGENCY Medical Coordinator
Kabul, Afghanistan

To help our dedicated staff provide high standard medical and surgical care free of charge to civilian casualties of escalating violence in Afghanistan