Inside the Emergency Surgical Center for War Victims, a hospital in Afghanistan that’s funded by an Italian NGO and is committed to helping all victims:
Last year, Emergency’s three hospitals and 34 clinics across Afghanistan treated nearly 360,000 patients. During the course of reporting this article, after visiting these facilities and meeting a number of these patients, I began to wonder how such a responsibility had fallen to a small, modestly financed Italian NGO. This, of course, was connected to a larger question: What is our responsibility to the Afghans who are maimed, burned, disabled and disfigured by a war we started and can’t seem to end?
According to NATO, even civilians who are injured during operations by U.S. or other coalition forces are only ‘entitled to receive emergency care if there is threat to their life, limb or eyesight.’ In such cases, ‘discharge or transfer to an appropriate Afghan civilian facility is recommended as soon as the patient is stabilized.’ On paper, this might appear to make sense; after all, the United States and other foreign donors have invested vast sums of money in Afghanistan’s public health system. But given the poor quality of care, scarcity of equipment and pervasive graft that still defines most government hospitals, ‘discharge or transfer’ can look a lot like abandonment.