Afghanistan - The Toughest Battle
A country in transition
In his second posting, David Foster observes Afghanistan's emerging healthcare.
Last Modified: 16 May 2007 14:13 GMT

Jamila is already marked out as different because
of her scars
In his second daily diary posting from Afghanistan, Al Jazeera's David Foster observes a country in transition.

It was upsetting to watch - it must have been terrifying for the children being treated.

The syringe was inserted four times. In the case of two babies, so close to their eyes that one slip would have been disastrous.

The screaming did not stop.


We are at a clinic on the outskirts of Kabul where Afghan men, women and children are queuing-up outside in the blazing sun to be treated for Leishmaniasis.

It is a disease carried by sand flies and those who are bitten get ulcers on their skin which can leave terrible scars.

If caught early it can be treated, but many of those here have been bitten time and again over the years. Some of the children are badly disfigured.

Jamila is ten and would be a beautiful young woman in a few years. Her face, however, is pitted with scars. On one cheek there are raised lesions which run for more than ten centimetres. They will never go away, but her mother's brought her here so other ulcers can receive treatment.

This young girl's tears are not because of the needle, I suspect, but because she knows why we are filming. It makes me uncomfortable about what we are doing because she is right. She is already marked out as different. Girls with scars, we are told, will probably never marry.

The reason we are here, though, is not to highlight other people's misfortunes, but to show that there is some sort of emerging healthcare in Afghanistan. What I find encouraging is that this is not to save lives, but simply to help.

Real hope

General Dan McNeill insists that improvements in
Afghanistan 'will take time'
Later as I talk to Chris Alexander from the UN he tells me that infant mortality rates have improved by 20 per cent in the last few years.

But that does not impress Mullah Zaeef, a former Taliban diplomat who is with us. He has had to send his daughter to Pakistan for heart treatment, he says.

"Nothing here has got better," he complains.

It is a country in transition.

I record an interview with General Dan McNeill who is in charge of the International Security Assistance Force, with Nato forces under his command, and ask him what improvements there have been.

He mentions irrigation, clean water projects and new schools.

"It will take time," he insists.

We talk about those who are losing their lives, the civilian deaths that have increased with the aerial bombing campaign by foreign forces.

The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, insists the civilian casualties must stop and the Afghan senate has said all foreign offensive operations must end.

"We take every precaution to avoid such incidents, but war's not a precise science," says the general.

At the clinic, many of those receiving treatment are refugees returning home. They have come back expecting a better life, for things to improve.

In some ways they already have, as their medical attention today shows. But in many ways they have not yet, and I am left asking myself how long these people will have to wait for a tomorrow which holds real hope.

Al Jazeera
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