A Hospital in Kunduz Gets Patients, but Nothing to Help Them With
By C. J. CHIVERS
The New York Times
KUNDUZ, Afghanistan, Nov. 27 ó The child rested on her back on a dirty bed, looking trance-like at the ceiling and biting a green scarf.
Her abdomen had been pierced by shrapnel in the morning when an unexploded bomb in her neighborhood suddenly detonated, and now, as evening approached, her belly was swollen from the bleeding inside. Dr. Abdulhadi Jawid pressed his finger lightly near the trickling wound, causing tears to run from the child's eyes. He pulled back his hand.
"We have no medicine for this patient, and no way to operate to take out the pieces of bomb," the doctor said, and walked to the next bed, where a Taliban soldier, shot twice through the stomach, was lying in blood-darkened sheets. "It is the same with this man."
There is no triage at the Spinzer Hospital, the largest medical center in the city of Kunduz, just as there are no pain killers, no antibiotics, no blood for transfusions or surgeons on call. There is essentially no health care here at all, just blood- smeared mattresses on which to wait to heal or to die, and a small staff, working without electricity or equipment, that offers comfort and serves tea.
The Northern Alliance generals who liberated this city Monday morning after brief skirmishes near the city's central square met today to begin forming a temporary government. The shape of the government remained uncertain after the meeting, and for the generals, who amount to an interim and personality-driven regime, one of their first challenges was the situation at the hospital, a cold and stinking place where a dead soldier's wide- eyed body was stretched out today on the floor by the entrance.
There was little hope for immediate improvement.
Taliban soldiers looted the medical compound on their way out of the city Monday morning, the staff said, and then the hospital was looted some more by local citizens before the Northern Alliance established some semblance of civic control. The generator is gone. So is most of the staff, which was too afraid to come to work. The place is basically closed, except for the 16 patients that waited in their beds, and three bodies, one on a gurney and two on the floor.
The International Committee of the Red Cross arrived today to deliver new medicine, but was unable to leave it with the staff because the Northern Alliance generals, who posted a group of infantrymen at the hospital gate, could not yet assure that the building would not be looted again.
Inside, the tiles on the floor of the operating room, which was shut down and uncleaned, were slippery with pools of blood. Its air was crisscrossed by flies. The lab was padlocked. Patients rooms were dark and cold, cluttered with used bandages.
Abdul Hadid, 35, a Taliban soldier who had been shot once in the ribs and once in the leg by the Northern Alliance on Monday, sat up in his bed and moaned. "We have no medicine," he said. "We need medicine."
Dr. Azizullah Safer, the hospital's director and an orthopedic surgeon, met with the International Committee of the Red Cross today and waited outside the Khiaban Mosque, where the Northern Alliance generals met to begin negotiating the details of an interim government. He said he was appealing for international help for the hospital, but needed the general's assistance before any significant improvements could be started.
First, he said, he needed a pledge of security so his staff felt safe and the equipment ó like the generator someone stole yesterday ó would be on hand. "Nothing can begin here without a guarantee of safety," he said.
Then, he said, he needed help from abroad and supplies. "We have lost everything," he said. "The situation was already terrible, but since yesterday, when the looters came, it is impossible."
Just before dusk, Dr. Chris Paul Giannou, a surgeon for the International Committee of the Red Cross, arrived at the hospital and said Red Cross officials had received the assurances of the Northern Alliance that the medical compound would be safe by Wednesday.
Under Dr. Giannou's instructions, a three-vehicle convoy took most of the injured patients to Taliqan, roughly two hours away, where the hospital has drugs and electricity. As the trucks were loaded, the girl with shrapnel in her abdomen, Razima Firuza, 12, was wheeled out on a cart. He lifted her bandage, looked the swelling, and shook his head.
"What has been done for this child?" he said, and the stretcher- bearers lifted her into the truck for the ride out of Kunduz.
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