Mohammad Rasool manages Humanity & Inclusion’s programs in Kandahar, Afghanistan, where the organization has been running a rehabilitation center since 1996.
Due to a collapsing economy, drought and consequences following years of war, the humanitarian context has significantly deteriorated. Since U.S. military troops left and the government was overturned in August, people have been flocking to the Kandahar rehabilitation center.
What kinds of people visit the rehabilitation center in Kandahar?
The vast majority of people are victims of the war and of explosive weapons. Last November, I met an 8-year-old girl from Zabul Province, which neighbors Kandahar. A mortar bomb hit her house while she was playing at home with her cousins. She was badly injured in the blast, and she was taken to several hospitals for treatment. Her father and family live on very little income, unable to afford the cost of transportation to Kandahar. After many difficult months, her family finally managed to transport her to Kandahar where she received treatment. Unfortunately, by then, her left leg had to be amputated.
Humanity & Inclusion’s team at the center worked with the young girl for several weeks as she recovered from the operation. We provided rehabilitation sessions to increase her mobility, strength and balance. Finally, when she was ready, measurements were taken and she received a prosthetic leg.
What is the rehabilitation landscape in Afghanistan?
The rehabilitation needs are immense. People come to the center every day, sometimes from very far away. For some families, the journey to the center takes an entire day, as there are only two rehabilitation centers that serve the south of the country. Since August 2021, we have seen a major increase in patient numbers. More people have been able to access the center since the fighting; roadblocks and strict security measures have ended. Now, we receive more than 100 people a week at the Kandahar center.
How strong is the connection between disability and explosive remnants of war?
Based on our data from the center, the majority of the people have acquired disabilities following contact with explosives, landmines and other remnants of war. In Afghanistan, the prevalence of disability is very high: 80% of the Afghan population has some form of disability due to the presence of mines, explosive remnants of war, armed conflicts and limited access to health and nutrition services.
What is the general situation in Afghanistan six months after the Taliban seized power?
More than half the population is in need of humanitarian assistance. People are really struggling with poverty, displacement, drought, and the ongoing risks associated with improvised explosive devices. The country’s health system is overwhelmed and the economy is collapsing. Many struggle just to get food. With no more cash in circulation, civil servants have not been paid for months and people are unable to buy goods.
How is Humanity & Inclusion responding?
Humanity & Inclusion provides rehabilitation care as the medical system in the country is unable to meet the current demand. As physical therapy services are scarce, we have a national plan to train more than 120 physical therapists over the course of a 3-year curriculum. Humanity & Inclusion also provides psychosocial support to many people experiencing stress and anxiety since there are very few mental health services in the country. We also conduct risk education sessions, as the presence of mines and explosive remnants of war remain a daily threat to the population.
Teams in Kunduz and Herat started providing cash assistance to support families with the lowest income. We will provide between six and nine allowances of $200, targeting 1,600 families. This financial support will enable them to buy food and access basic services like medical care.
Humanity & Inclusion in Afghanistan
Humanity & Inclusion has worked in Afghanistan since 1987 and is active in the five provinces Kandahar, Nimroz, Herat, Kunduz, and Kabul. The organization’s actions include physical rehabilitation, psychosocial support, mine risk education, training of new physical therapists and cash assistance.
Annually, Humanity & Inclusion assists approximately 9,000 survivors of conflict and people with disabilities at the physical rehabilitation center in Kandahar alone. Additionally, mobile teams support thousands of internally displaced people, returnees, and people with disabilities annually.
Currently, Humanity & Inclusion has 370 staff, including 114 women, based in Afghanistan.