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A day in the life of Shah Wali, a surgeon in Afghanistan

In one of the few moments of rest that the hectic workload at the EMERGENCY surgical centre for war victims in Laskar-Gah allows you, Shah Wali watches TV news about his country, Afghanistan. He listens to it, silent and serious.

Shah Wali is 42 years old, he is one of the Afghan surgeons who has been working at the centre for a very long time. He completed his training and his specialisation here. When he sees me, he starts telling me about the tiring days and about those times when he and the rest of the staff would have to deal with up to twenty surgeries in a single day.

His eyes are tired, but Shah Wali is determined and focused in the operating room. When he visits patients in the hospital wards, I can see that he looks after them carefully.

He does not hesitate to give an encouraging pat to one of the younger patients and while passing the bed of a man whose leg he had to amputate, smiles and shakes his hand.

It has been more than 15 years since he started working at the EU-funded EMERGENCY’s surgical centre and he is one of those people experiencing his country’s destiny at first-hand.

Cautiously, I ask him what he thinks of the war. “I have no idea,” he replies with evident sadness. “Sometimes I am under the impression that things have slightly improved compared to two years ago; then I realise that this will most likely only be a break. True, victims of landmines and firefights have decreased, but our hospital beds are full every day. And nobody knows anymore why we keep fighting this war. It has simply become normal.”

From the EMERGENCY Surgical Centre for War Victims in Lashkar-Gah.

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