Giles DuleyGiles Duley is an English photographer who focuses his work on humanitarian projects to highlight lesser known stories deserving of public attention and action.

Giles is a strong supporter of Emergency and its work, here we report a passage of his article published on The Observer:

“…. After 20 minutes we reach the Emergency hospital in the city centre. The hospital was set up in 2000 when the Taliban bequeathed a former kindergarten to Emergency as its first hospital in Afghanistan. At the time it was the only intensive care unit in the country. In the grounds, playground slides and swings remain, eerie reminders of the hospital’s more innocent past. When we park the car I am greeted by Lucy, a British nurse I became friends with the last time I worked at Emergency’s hospital in Sudan. We feel relieved to have a moment of familiarity in a foreign place. Out of respect for local custom, I resist the urge to put my arms around her until we are in private. “My God Lucy, it’s so good to see you. I promised I’d be here.” And at that moment the tears take over. Two years of fighting for this moment overwhelm me. I have really made it.

One of the things I learned about Emergency in Sudan was the care given to the grounds of the hospital. It is part of their ethos that a hospital should be an oasis of calm as much as a centre for medical treatment. While most hospitals in conflict areas are naturally chaotic, Emergency hospitals always have a sense of peace. The hospital in here is no exception. As Lucy takes me on a tour through the manicured gardens where patients relax in the sun, it is hard to believe I am in the centre of Kabul.

But the appearance belies the reality. Each day the hospital deals with up to 30 civilians injured, often horrifically, by conflict in Kabul or nearby provinces. It has a policy of treating only war-wounded – only those with injuries from bomb, gun or knife are admitted. Before I arrived Lucy had sent me several emails which gave me a sense of the place. In the staff room I ask her about some of the stories she’d told me. During the summer, she says, the casualty rate was so high they had patients in the laundry room. A couple of months ago, they had six patients from the same family. They’d been in a bus that had driven over a landmine. Several died at the scene. They had a grandmother, her daughter and her grandchild all in the same ward. The mother had lost her legs. She tells me of the boy who prays each night after losing his sight when his brother detonated a landmine. They asked his family, “What is he praying for?” The family replied: “He prays to forget because the last thing he saw was his brother being killed.”

The conversation is interrupted as her walkie-talkie crackles into life. She jumps up and leaves the room, explaining that it’s another casualty and that she’ll meet us all later in the staff house. She had been talking nonstop until this point, as if the process of recounting so many stories is somehow cathartic.

There is one particular benefit of working with an Italian NGO – the staff all live as one big familia. On that first evening we are treated to a group meal that belongs more in Naples than Kabul. With laughter, hugs, Parmesan and pasta, the only thing missing is red wine. Throughout my career I have always had the deepest respect for those nurses, doctors, surgeons, logisticians and administrators that give up their lives to work in hospitals such as these around the world. They sacrifice families, their freedom, risk their lives, put their careers on hold but rarely to any fanfares. Despite the laughter tonight, I can see the strain. Confined to the hospital grounds, working seven days a week, on call 24 hours a day, they have grown used to the sound of suicide attacks and gunshots and dealing every day with horrendous, needless casualties. I only wish they more regularly received the praise they deserve.”

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