101 East

Afghanistan: The Healers

As war continues to cripple Afghanistan, health workers are restoring the limbs, and lives, of their patients.

Almost 180,000 patients, nearly 200,000 artificial limbs: For 30 years, orthopaedic centres run by the International Committee of the Red Cross have provided a lifeline for Afghanistan’s physically disabled -victims of air raids, accidents, and congenital illness.

No matter how many limbs they make, the patients keep coming.

In Afghanistan, disability often carries a heavy stigma. But when patients come to the Red Cross centre in Kabul, they get more than just a new prosthetic limb; they get a hefty dose of hope.

Many of the staff treating them are former patients, who provide powerful examples that disability does not have to mean the end of life as they know it.

Physiotherapist Karima Nikgo was shot in the leg four times while walking home from her grandmother’s house when she was just 13.

That was almost 25 years ago.

The Red Cross offered to train her as a physiotherapist when she finished high school, and since then she has helped thousands of patients just like her.

“They don’t believe that with an artificial leg they can walk normally,” she says. “But I tell them, ‘See, my leg is artificial but I still come here and work’.”

One of her patients is six-year-old Yousef. He hasn’t walked for months, since he was injured in a hit-and-run accident.

Now Karima is helping Yousef learn to walk again.

101 East meets the remarkable people risking their lives to help disabled people in war-torn Afghanistan.

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