“I meet the gaze of Parmina, proud and dignified, while listening to the words of Sabrina, dry and candid as always. ‘She is four times unlucky,’ Sabrina says, talking about the poor girl of eight years, ‘because she was born in Afghanistan, because she was born a woman in this land, because she was hit by a stray bullet in the doorway of her house, while she was playing with her sister, and because she is now paraplegic.’
I wonder what will happen to her, what type of future she can have in this land with such a precarious future, what family she has around her, whether on visiting days there will be someone who comes to visit her.
Here at our hospital in Lashkar-gah there are currently several children with spinal injuries caused by bullets or shrapnel from mines. The future, for them, is a terrible enigma. Here we see them improve, we see them gradually recover their dignity, when they start to get out of bed and regain some autonomy while sitting in a wheelchair. The physiotherapy provided at the hospital achieves authentic miracles, but what will happen after these children have crossed the threshold to leave the hospital? We have no way of knowing.”
— Alberto, EMERGENCY NGO anaesthetist in Afghanistan
In the two months while our new First Aid Post was being built in Waterloo, Sierra Leone, the news of the imminent opening of the clinic quickly spread throughout the area: this, too, is a sign of just how much it’s needed.
The confirmation came on Monday, just a few minutes after we’d opened the doors, when we four people injured in a road accident were brought to the First Aid Post. All of them were quickly stabilised; three needed further treatment, so we transferred them in our ambulance to the Surgical Centre in Goderich.
The new First Aid Post is located near a refugee camp that’s become a permanent fixture close to the capital. Thanks to the Community Health Officers, nurses, auxiliary staff, drivers, and an international doctor and nurse, treatment is guaranteed 24/7.
“Waterloo” is a name that immediately brings to mind a great battle of the past. For us though, Waterloo is in Sierra Leone and it’s a place of care, providing real support for the country’s fragile health system.
“Seeing the roses blooming in winter is an amazing sight; here in Lashkar-gah, our hospital for war victims has a beautiful inner garden that’s always well looked after by our gardeners. And the part of the garden that lies behind the hospital has a little play area for children.
There are slides, swings and roundabouts – all kept in good condition and freshly painted red and white. They look so inviting… And here at the hospital, there’s certainly no lack of children: a third of our patients are women and children. They’re the so-called “collateral damage” of this endless war. They’re here at our hospital because they’ve suffered war wounds, caused by bullets, shrapnel or landmines.
And do you want to know what a landmine does to a child? I don’t want to describe the kinematics of these injuries, or the harm produced by bullets blasting into such tender skin, or the terrible mutilations caused by these explosive devices. I just want to say this: for the children I see in the hospital, those landmines, bullets and pieces of shrapnel have taken away the legs for climbing the steps of the slide; they’ve amputated the arms for holding onto the swing; they’ve blinded the eyes for seeing the roses and the red and white of the roundabouts; they’ve disfigured the faces behind the candid, open smiles of children playing. That’s what I’ve learnt about bullets, shrapnel and landmines. And it’s something you won’t find in the books.”
— Alberto, EMERGENCY NGO anaesthetist in Afghanistan
Listen to one of our volunteers, Diana C. Silverman, Ph.D., talk about her new book, Stellare: Learning Italian with Cultural Stars. All proceeds from the book are donated to EMERGENCY to support our work.
During his long stay in our hospital for War Victims in Libya, Ramadan – who speaks English – became a go-between for us and our patients. And as soon as his condition improved, he was helping the children to eat, helping the other patients to get out of bed, and always had a kind word and gesture for everyone. So we asked him to become our colleague. Every afternoon, during the hours of training held by the international staff, he’s now an interested and attentive member of the group. When we asked him if we could tell you his story, he answered “Of course, but I’ll write it.” You can read his story below. He called it “Story of my life.” And we thought it was a truly great story to share.
“My name is Ramadan Mousa Kaber Kony. I was born in the city of Alkofra in 1993, in a shanty town built by Gheddafi. During the fighting in my village, I was wounded by a bullet that entered via my left shoulder and passed close to my heart before emerging from my back.
There are no good medical services in my area, so during a moment of cease-fire I managed, along with other injured people, to reach the hospital in Gernada that’s run by EMERGENCY. Here we all got the right treatment and we stayed in hospital until we were well enough to be discharged.
When I was ready to leave the hospital, Marina (EMERGENCY’s Medical coordinator here in Libya) asked me whether I’d be interested in working with them, here at the hospital. I said “yes” because I feel I belong to this place, where I was once a patient and now I’m a member of the staff. I’m happy for myself, although I’m very sorry for my family and all the people in my village who have to go on living in a hard, dangerous situation.
Finally, I’d like to thank all the EMERGENCY staff: I hope I can be of good use in this hospital.