How Afghans have adapted to life after losing a limb


SUMMARY: In Kabul, where I lived on and off as a journalist for eight years, disabled men are a ubiquitous sight in the streets, begging alongside women and children at busy intersections, where traffic slows to a crawl. With sleeves or pant legs rolled up to show naked stumps or withered limbs, they weave between the cars on crutches or hand-cranked wheelchairs, navigating the unpaved streets and open gutters that, when rain or snow comes, turn into rivers of mud and sewage. Warlords and Taliban commanders sometimes have noms de guerre (which tend to be things like Mullah Rauf or Commander Ibrahim) with a peculiar suffix: “lang,” or “the Lame,” a testament to the injuries accumulated over decades of war. Whenever I visited a trauma hospital, the sight of patients resting quietly with their white-bandaged stumps — many of them children — made me think that what is most difficult for us to imagine is not tragedy but the prospect of living in its aftermath. Life after suffering a permanent injury is particularly harsh for people in Afghanistan, where agriculture still employs nearly two-thirds of the working population and many of the few jobs available in the cities involve manual labor.

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Published: Thursday, January 31, 2019

Last Updated: Wednesday, May 13, 2020

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