Donation-based hospital rescues Afghanistan's wounded

(CBS News) KABUL - In Afghanistan, an American soldier and two Afghans were killed by a car bomb Thursday.

It happened near the U.S. airbase in Kandahar, a few hours after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta left there to meet with Afghan President Karzai.

Taliban attacks have grown more frequent, causing a sharp rise in civilian casualties. There's one place where many of those lives are saved or lost.

The non-profit trauma hospital goes by one name: Emergency. It offers free treatment to the bruised and bloodied victims of this conflict. Every patient who arrives there is a casualty of war.

Dr. Gino Strada
Dr. Gino Strada
CBS News

Dr. Gino Strada is the chain-smoking Italian cardiologist who founded emergency in 1999. He told CBS News that he'll take in patients, regardless of whether they're Taliban or whatever their political affiliations may be.

"Otherwise, you're not a doctor anymore," he said, "then you're a judge."

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Strada said he's seen a dramatic shift in the types of injuries he treats: Fewer bullet wounds and more from roadside bombs and heavy weapons.

"The weapons which are now used are much more powerful and destructive than those that were available ten or fifteen years ago," Strada said.

This year, the hospital has treated nearly two thousand patients -- an all time high. The vast majority are civilians.

Five-year-old Shayr Mohammed's wrist was fractured and his arm burned when he was hit by shrapnel.

His injuries have healed well. But not all children are so lucky.

Another young boy had picked up what he thought was a toy and it exploded in his pocket. By the time he arrived at Emergency, there was nothing the doctors could do.

"We live in a place where insurgents and police are shooting at each other all the time," his uncle said.

Strada said the fighting is coming closer to the capital and the fighting is becoming more intense.

"This is very worrying because it's very difficult to predict what's going to happen in the near future," he said.

As NATO troops prepare to pull out in 2014, there are fears that the security situation could deteriorate further and that Afghanistan's healthcare system will be overwhelmed.

A patient at the Emergency hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan.
A patient at the Emergency hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan.
CBS News

The U.S. has spent nearly a billion dollars on health care in Afghanistan the last ten years. But Strada said there is little to show for it.

"What worries me is particularly is corruption in the health sector. When you look at the amount of international aid that has come to Afghanistan for health, you would expect to find fantastic hospitals everywhere. And you don't see one," Strada said.

But there's no shortage of patients, and the war outside Emergency's walls rages on.

Donations to Emergency are accepted at the links below:

www.emergencyusa.org
www.emergency.it/en-index.html

  • Clarissa Ward

    Foreign Correspondent, CBS News

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