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Inside Afghanistan's Mirwais hospital

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 19 August 2009

Nima Elbagir reports from inside an Afghanistan hospital on the civilian casualties caught up in the fight against the Taliban.

Photo taken by Jacob Simkin

In the run up to tomorrow's elections, British forces battled Taliban insurgents in a major operation to impose stability in Helmand Province.

Ten soldiers were killed in Operation Panthers Claw. But they weren't the only casualties. Many civilians caught up in the fighting headed to Mirwais hospital - where some had to wait for days before receiving treatment.

A month into the offensive, reporter Nima Elbagir travelled to the Hospital in Kandahar City - it only has 350 beds but it serves all five of Afghanistan's southern regions.

Her report contains some distressing images.

Greeting Afghanistan's casualties

Journalist Nima Elbagir writes on a week filming in Mirwais hospital and how little could prepare her for what she encountered.
Read her blog and see the pictures

'We don't have a way to get away'

Despite billions of pounds being poured in, the country still ranks second in the world for infant deaths, just as it did in 1990 at the end of the war with the Soviets.

As the conflict escalates, malnutrition rates have risen, pushing up mortality rates.

Mirwais hospital has 350 beds and they are supposed to serve a population of almost 4 million.

Hundreds crowd the narrow corridors and few people arrive by ambulance. Many have to help themselves to the hospital because they cannot afford a taxi.

The hospital has been supported by the Red Cross since 1996, so the medicines are of a high standard and the generator does not run out of fuel.

In July, the hospital registered a 50 per cent jump in civilian casualties compared with 12 months ago.

Reporter Nima Elbagir spoke to patients and families in the hospital and was told:

"The Americans can't recognize who is their friend and who is their enemy, they hurt us civilians. We need to get them off our land."

"We are being killed and disabled, we don't have a way to get away from these problems."

There are 20 surgeons trained by the Red Cross stationed at the hospital and they can perform 700 operations every month.

Most surgeries are performed on the war wounded but our observations suggest the majority of people reporting to the hospital have been caught in crossfire, live close to a coalition base or walked along a road the Taliban did not want built.

Interview: General Jim Dutton

Alex Thomson interviewed General Jim Dutton, who is not only the UK's top commander in Afghanistan but also second in command of the NATO operation there.

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