Amir does not speak. He does not know if he ever will again, because a landmine has torn his vocal cords. The friend he was walking with on the road where the bomb lay is dead.
His father Munir, however, translates his every gesture and expression into words. Since Amir was injured three months ago, Munir, unemployed with five children, left Maidan Wardak province and came to Kabul to be near his 9-year-old son.
“I couldn’t leave him alone. And I couldn’t let him be treated close to home. Public clinics are free in theory. But in practice, if you need medication you have to pay for it and I have no money. So I turned to EMERGENCY,” he says.
Amir is being treated at the Kabul Surgical Centre, one of four hospitals and more than 40 health facilities EMERGENCY operates throughout Afghanistan, completely free of charge.
The effects of more than 40 years of war continue to take their toll on the country, which, together with the interruption of international aid, has seen poverty explode: 70 per cent of the population is starving. Healthcare is one of the most difficult sectors. In recent years, many medical personnel have fled abroad.
EMERGENCY’s recent publication, Access to Care in Afghanistan, reports that half of all Afghans cannot buy the medicines they need and are forced to choose between paying for healthcare or food; a fifth have seen a relative or friend die for lack of access to care; and almost all – nine out of ten – have had to go into debt to pay for healthcare.