Afghanistan: "A Family Rushed in with Their 14-Year-Old Son"

This April 2012 photograph shows the entrance noticeboard at the newly reconstructed MSF Trauma Centre, Kunduz, Afghanistan

AFGHANISTAN 2012 © Helena Mikolavcic

MSF surgeon Martin John Jarmin, III, tells the story of Ali, a young patient treated at the MSF hospital in Kunduz after he was injured in an explosion.

MSF surgeon Martin John Jarmin III interacts with a young patient at MSF's trauma center in Kunduz, northern Afghanistan. Providing surgical care and physical therapy, it is the only hospital of its kind in the area.

Martin John Jarmin III is a surgeon who has worked at Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) projects around the world. Here he describes a particularly memorable patient he treated in MSF's trauma center in Kunduz, Afghanistan:

“As in any urban area, we see a lot of road accidents and civilian gunshot injuries at the new 70-bed MSF surgical hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. Yet, while it is relatively safer here these days, remnants of war—like stray bullets or rockets—continue to put people’s lives at risk.

One day, a family rushed in with their 14-year-old son. Ali [patient name has been changed] had been playing with friends in a field when they found something they said looked like a battery. It was probably a bomb detonator because it exploded when they touched the two wires that were sticking out of it. Ali had shrapnel in his face and serious injuries to his hands and arms. He was lucky and will recover. The blast permanently blinded his brother.

Prior to our arrival in August 2011, the 250,000 people living in Kunduz had no access to adequate trauma care. The MSF trauma center is equipped with an emergency room, two operating theaters, and an intensive care unit. Once word spread that we’re here, more and more people began coming to us for care. Many patients tell us they used to go all the way to Pakistan to get specialized care.

"Since there is not really a good hospital in this part of the country, we are filling a very real need. We always tell people that it doesn’t matter where you came from or who you are, we will treat you"


- Dr. Martin John Jarmin III, MSF surgeon