In Afghanistan, I might only have ten years left to live
I arrived in Kabul, Afghanistan this morning. I’m reading up on country statistics as we go. As the plane flew we started bumping around in the turbulence over the mountains that surround Kabul, and cover 80% of Afghanistan — what was this? Nervousness? Tension? The bumping stops, but I’m still nervous.
Average life expectancy = 43 years old. I have 10 years left to live.
Arriving in Kabul, I find a fairly well-organised airport. After a strange walk around the outside of the airport, through another building to the “outside airport”, I find our car and driver. In many countries I arrive and find the car by the logo.
Usually I don’t even look closely at the logo – I just notice that it’s red and head towards it, which it explains why I have tried to get in a Red Cross vehicle on more than one occasion. Here though, there’s no sign; just a row of similar looking cars in front of me, so I wait for the driver to come up and introduce himself to me before heading to the car. We head out of the airport through the blast screens, concrete and military, and I see one of the airport security soldiers playing with the sniffer dog that checks the cars. They’re playing tug of war with his lead, a scene out of place in what feels quite a depressing environment.
1 in 4 children die before their 5th birthday. Afghanistan has the highest child mortality in the world at present.
My depression doesn’t last long. As we drive to the guesthouse we wind through busy markets, rows of shops full of people, and so much traffic. A car gets stuck driving over the drains in an attempt to bypass traffic and people come out of everywhere to help lift the car enough for him to drive away. A young boy attempts to help and is moved to the edge by older lads who vanish any feelings of hurt by miming that he is strong and good to help.
850 children die every day here. That’s everyone in the secondary school I went to – in one day.
So what’s the problem? The Taliban? International Military Forces? Security in general? Opium maybe? Maybe its natural disasters? Earthquakes — like the one we’re responding to in the north? Flooding? This has affected the whole country, displacing many thousands of families. Drought? The most recent drought lasted over 10 years in some areas.
Right now driving through Kabul, I don’t see any of those things. The city extends up the mountains and houses can be seen climbing the steep slopes toward the edge of the city. It’s sunny and bright, and very beautiful here.
I can’t wait to see the work we’re doing here to change these statistics.
We’ve been helping children in Afghanistan – the second most dangerous place in the world for a child to grow up, or for a woman to give birth – since 1976.
Please support our appeal today to reach more children.