Life in South, Central & the Middle East of Asia is – it’s no secret – complicated for a lot of people. The ongoing violence in Syria; the war in Yemen; the spread, and global attempts to limit the spread, of Islamic State; and failing, corrupt governments are just some of the problems currently afflicting the region.
Over the last few years it seems as though a different country’s crisis has become flavour of the month: Egypt with Mubarak, Libya with Gaddafi, Syria with Assad, Iran with its nuclear program. As a result it’s very easy for ongoing crises to fall to the wayside and lose the attention of the international community, simply for having gone on too long.
Afghanistan is one such country, the last 30+ years of near constant war (civil and US invasion-led) having destroyed everything from medical institutions to roads.
“Yes, there has been some development since 2002, but the repair is still far outweighed by the damage, and the health sector has barely been touched”, says 3rd year GKT Medicine student Salman Momin, who is from Afghanistan and returns on frequent visits.
And this is one of the reasons Salman has, with his co-founder and other volunteers, started Human Relief Mission, a charity that aims to provide emergency ambulances in the country.
“It isn’t safe in Afghanistan: explosions happen, fights break out, other events happen and people get injured, wounded. A lot of people get hurt and eventually die, and from our experience we’ve realised that all too often they die not because of the severity of their wounds or injuries, but because they couldn’t get treatment in time”.
“Our aim is to get to them quickly, provide basic paramedic support and try to take them to the hospital and save their lives. And not limited to strife borne injuries of course, HRM goes where there is flooding, earthquakes, etc.”
Ambulances don’t always ferry those still alive to the care they need, often an ambulance is simply carrying the dead. But whilst the former is undoubtedly a more important purpose than the latter, it is the latter that maintains dignity – dignity which has become increasingly absent in various nations in and around the Middle East.
“If someone dies, they’ll be carried away in donkey carts, beds, rickshaws, taxis, etc. It’s a blow to their dignity, really. Take for example this incident on the 4th of February, which coincidentally, or inevitably, was the date of our huge fundraiser, Sirens Save Lives. An accident happened and four people died. Our ambulance got there, but there was only a single body bag and the ambulance crew had to decide which one of the four deceased got it.”
“It’s not as though it can’t be done, either. Look at Pakistan, where the Edhi foundation started off with a similar mission, and now most ambulances you see in Pakistan are theirs.”
Human Relief Mission also tries to provide relief in other ways, including sponsorships for orphans or those in poverty (they are currently providing tuition and accommodation for 20 students), food distributions, and a blood donation program. It currently only operates in Afghanistan but its founders say they are looking to help wherever they can.
What stands out about HRM is that the charity is entirely run by student volunteers, including several from King’s who recently held the Sirens Saves Lives event on campus. To find out more, or to get involved yourself, you can visit their Facebook page.