Sunday, November 9, 2008

Return to Afghanistan 2003

4 April 2003


On 10 March 2003 I returned to Afghanistan for 3 weeks to work with the Afghan Red Crescent Society.

It was a mixture of emotion and joy as I returned to Afghanistan after having been away for six and a half years.

There are many highlights that spring to mind but one that stands out, was when I saw a young girl of about 11 leading her blind father into the Federation compound. Slowly I recognised the man, Khan Mohammed. We embraced and for what seemed eternity, we exchanged greetings about our families, our lives and we reflected on the time we first met in 1994.

I looked at his daughter and asked, " Are you Saliha ?"

" Yes, " she replied shyly.

My mind went back to that day in early 1994 when Kabul was under heavy rocketing during fractional warfare, and one of our drivers said to me there was a blind mother and father trapped with two starving children, in a building which had been heavily shelled. The rest of the occupants had been evacuated. I visited with ARCS friends and found Khan Mohammed and his wife, both blind, and a severely malnourished baby and a little girl, Saliha, who looked about two.

We examined the baby who was getting low quality milk from her Mother who hadn't eaten properly for weeks. The baby looked in a very serious condition. Saliha was also severely malnourished. The only food items in the house was some tea, no sugar and stale strips of bread. The children were shivering in the below freezing temperature as the fuel for the heater had finished three weeks earlier. Only a few tattered blankets kept the family warm at night.

We got medical treatment for the children and arranged for food, clothing, new bedding, blankets, fuel and toys for the children.

Visits to Khan Mohammed and his family became a regular feature of my three years in Afghanistan between 1993 and 1996.

Seeing Khan Mohammed again with his daughter leading him by the hand, both looking so healthy, was something that I'll never forget.

I asked Saliha about her life and she said, " I go to school now and I like that." She said she has four younger brothers and sisters, but one died a few years ago.

I talked to Khan Mohammed about his life and he told me how things had improved and how he was so grateful to Red Cross for helping him over the years.

We talked about his sight and he said, "Some years ago a Russian doctor said it might be possible to get sight back in one eye."

" If I could see it would take so much pressure off Saliha who has to look after not only my wife and I, but her younger brothers and sisters."

I have decided that all profits from my recent book will go to helping selected families in Afghanistan, who have family members who are blind. I have already arranged with eye surgeons in Kabul and Delhi who have agreed to assist.....

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