Pain and Hope in Afghanistan


Text and photos

Violence, fire shootings and explosions have been a constant in the months leading up to the elections in Afghanistan. It’s been eighteen years since the beginning of the latest war and no area of the country can be said to be really safe from daily episodes of violence. In the first six months of 2019, according to UNAMA data, civilian casualties increased dramatically in Afghanistan because of elections.

The combined use of suicide and non-suicide improvised explosive devices was the leading cause of civilian casualties causing 42% of the overall total, followed by ground engagements (29%), aerial attacks (11%), landmines, and old explosive remnants of war (18%). Children, whose only fault is to find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, continue to be the most impacted by the armed conflict. Between January 1 and September 30, 2019, UNAMA recorded 2,461 child casualties, an overall increase of 11% compared to 2018.

But when the numbers turn into real people made of flesh and blood, then the story is different, and photography becomes an essential medium to understanding and empathizing with those who carry this war on their own skin.

The same day Zarbibi got her leg amputated was also the day she gave birth to Maysaa. Although she was seven months pregnant, the baby was inexplicably healthy. And now I’m here, looking at her, wrapped in the blanket with her mother, a few days after birth. And I think about how our vulnerability makes us sacred creatures.

Zarbibi understands the gift of becoming a mother and she’s also experienced the hardest price.