Atawullah, 8, tries a new leg at the ICRC limb-fitting centre in Kabul. A year before, while walking to school, he’d stepped on a landmine, losing an arm and leg.

From Giles’ article on the Observer: “Atawullah and his father have come in so that Atawullah can have a new leg fitted and try a prosthetic arm for the first time. Just over a year ago, while walking to school, he stepped on a landmine. His brother and nephew were the first to reach him and raced him to his father who then drove him eight hours to the Emergency hospital in Kabul. He never lost consciousness during the journey.
Through my viewfinder I am watching Atawullah clumsily struggling to take his first steps on the new plastic leg while his shattered arm swings beside him. As we follow him into the limb-fitting area he is engulfed by prosthetists and doctors. All I can see is a small, lost child, bewildered in a sea of adults. They poke and prod, attaching straps and plastic limbs while Atawullah stares blankly. I raise my camera, trying to capture the scene in front of me, but all I can think of is everything I have been through in the last two years, and how, as a 40-year-old man, that had nearly broken me. All I can think is that no seven year old should have to go through what I went through. That no seven year old should be maimed in such a way, left with a legacy of pain and disability, blown up when walking to school. I can’t take my eyes away from his glazed, lost expression, his eyes, as big as saucers, staring blankly back at my camera. For once, I can’t take it any more. I put the camera down, my vision blurred with emotion, and I leave the room.”


As a result of the on-going conflict, Afghanistan is one of the most heavily-mined countries in the world with approximately 10 million landmines spread all over its territory. Landmines are indeed the major cause of civilian casualties in Afghanistan as between 1 January and 30 June 2012, IEDs alone accounted for 33% of all civilian casualties. 30% of these were made up by women and children (United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, 2012).

In 2003 EMERGENCY built a third Surgical Centre in Lashkar-gah.  The Centre is the only free specialized facility in the Helmand province, which has been at the centre of the Afghan conflict in the most recent years. The Surgical Centre is linked 24/7 to 3 First Aid Posts in the nearby villages of Grishk, Garmsir and Sangin. In August 2011, the hospital registered the highest number of war victims since its opening. One out of three was a child.

Data on EMERGENCY Surgical Centre in Lashkar-gah:

Outpatients consultation: 80,435
Admitted patients: 16,363
Surgeries: 20,065

Since December 1999 EMERGENCY has treated over 3.5 million people in Afghanistan.
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