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 again. She previously contributed the piece “From Chicago to Kabul.”
This is the third of a three part series (read part 1 here and part 2 here) in which Kelly examines NATO’s role in the Afghanistan conflict and the example set by EMERGENCY hospitals in Afghanistan. This article first appeared on the Telesur English website. By sharing her personal view of EMERGENCY’s impact in Afghanistan, Kelly joins Khaled Hosseini and many other EMERGENCY USA supporters who believe that high quality healthcare is a basic human right.
Most NGOs in Afghanistan arrange for their staff to travel in heavily armed vehicles. But unarmed EMERGENCY ambulances travel through war zones, in multiple directions, across the country. “We don’t have armed guards,” says Luca. “We don’t have bullet proof cars. We don’t change our routes because,” he explains in his clear, matter-of-fact style, “we have never been targeted.”
Luca says they acquire, and maintain, security through their reputation. Since they never charge any patient for health care, they could not be accused of trying to make a profit.
They also pursue strong diplomatic conversations with each group affected by their work, such as new workers, contractors, local government officials, and religious leaders. They explain their policy of maintaining neutral independence toward everyone involved. “If you provide something good, something skilled, and it is free of charge,” he adds, “there is no need to protect yourself. People won’t get angry.”
If NATO and U.S. commanders took a fraction of what they have spent securing this region by violence- (the Pentagon has requested 58.5 billion dollars for Fiscal Year 2015 in Afghanistan)- and spent that instead to help people harmed by the ravages of war, could non-combat projects, such as EMERGENCY’s, start to work? There are numerous, obvious solutions to problems in Afghanistan which NATO countries could actually consider, or even attempt, if the alliance was actually there to help improve the quality of life for Afghan people.
One solution is to establish health care programs similar to what EMERGENCY has created.
However, EMERGENCY isn’t in Afghanistan to point out a sane path through disaster to all the actors, here and abroad, who seem unlikely to discard paths of suicidal hatred and ignorance.
In Luca’s view, EMERGENCY is simply what a healthcare institution ought to be.
“It grows from a very simple idea. Provide high quality service for everyone, not thinking about profit, but just about patients’ health.”
“What is so complicated?” he asks.
We might address a similar question to NATO Sec. Gen. Jens Stoltenberg: A new, non-combat mission, in Afghanistan, one that rejects weapons and war. What would be so complicated?