We would like to thank Kathy Kelly, Chicago based humanitarian worker and co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, for joining EMERGENCY USA as a guest blog author. After traveling to the EMERGENCY Surgical Center in Kabul, Kelly reflected on her experience in a piece entitled “In EMERGENCY,” which was published on Telesur English on August 13th.
This is the third of a five part series (read part 1, read part 2) in which Kelly reports on the life-saving care provided at the Kabul Surgical Center. By sharing her personal view of EMERGENCY’s impact in Afghanistan, Kathy Kelly joins Khaled Hosseini and many other EMERGENCY USA supporters who believe that high quality healthcare is a basic human right.
Check back next Wednesday for part 4.
EMERGENCY’s commitment to sustain its invaluable care for victims of war is financially supported, primarily, by Italian families. “Pensioners and retirees take from what they have,” says Emanuele. “They believe in this work, want to be part of it.”
With assurance that EMERGENCY will one day turn the hospital over to the state, the Afghan government now pays 20% of the hospital’s annual 6 million dollar budget. We told Emanuele that the U.S. now spends 2.1 million dollars per soldier, per year in Afghanistan. Emanuele quickly pointed out that EMERGENCY‘s entire operating budget equals the budget for keeping 3 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan for one year.
He can’t help but laugh softly and shake his head when he compares their modestly-funded work with gargantuan multi-billion dollar health care and infrastructure projects funded by the United States over the past decade.
In Afghanistan’s Paktia province, the U.S. built a modern hospital called the Gardez Provincial Hospital, but because the province lacks electricity, the hospital can’t possibly function. During normal functioning the EMERGENCY hospital draws a total of 170 kilovolt-amperes, whereas the new Gardez hospital requires a whopping (and completely unavailable) 900 kVA. The new state of the art hospital, which is completely useless, looks good in photo shoots; donors might be pleased. But back in 2013, a Time Magazine article compared Gardez’s already existing hospital with the one under construction, noting that “the existing Gardez hospital has annual operating costs, including fuel, of about $611,000 … fuel costs alone for the new hospital could be as much as $3.2 million.”
Why would any group have continued building a hospital which clearly could never open? Giacomo pointed out that the Afghan construction companies are making money. Certain U.S. companies make money. Layers of subcontractors all profit, skimming some 10%-15% of the funds that have made it down to them, while U.S. media outlets spin fictions of how the war is helping Afghans.
In some of the more remote Afghan provinces, health care is non-existent or has collapsed. In July, 2014, when a bomb killed 89 people in a market in Paktika, about 28 wounded survivors were driven over difficult roads for the 7-to-12 hour trip to Kabul and its EMERGENCY hospital.
The general state of Afghanistan’s hospital system helps maintain a thriving industry: the travel agencies that send Afghans to India in search of adequate medical care. The Indian embassy in Kabul issued 32,200 medical visas in 2013.