British military medics save Afghan girls injured by IED

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A Military Operations news article

British military medics have saved the lives of two young Afghan girls from Helmand province who were seriously injured by a Taliban improvised explosive device (IED).

While playing near their home in Musa Qaleh, in the north of Helmand province, Kamila, aged three, and Wasila, aged six, were seriously injured by an IED which had earlier been laid by insurgents.

Kamila took the brunt of the explosion and suffered severe head injuries; while Wasila had shrapnel wounds to her stomach, causing liver damage.

Kamila's father took the children to Musa Qaleh district centre, knowing that coalition troops based there would help.

Their injuries were so severe that a British Medical Emergency Response Team (MERT) was mobilised, and the girls were flown in a British Chinook helicopter to the military multi-national hospital at Kandahar Airfield.

MERTs are launched for coalition, local national and suspected insurgent casualties with the requests being prioritised according to medical urgency.

Lieutenant Andrew Jelinek, from the Household Cavalry Battle Group, operates in Musa Qaleh, the area where the girls were injured. He said:

"IEDs laid by insurgents take a terrible toll on innocent civilians. They have had a deadly effect on British and coalition forces but it is the ordinary Afghan people that are hit the hardest.

"Unfortunately, children are the frequent victims of Taliban IEDs and, sadly, the story of Kamila and Wasila is far from unique.

"Back home we think we worry about our kids' safety when they go out to play but here it's on a different scale.

"The dangers the local kids face here when they are out playing are life and death.

"The Taliban just don't give a stuff about them. They plant these bombs knowing kids might set them off but they just don't care. If they did they wouldn't do it."

Doctor Sam Kao, the Canadian attending physician at Kandahar who has seen several tours in Afghanistan, added:

"Before Kamila arrived, we had a young boy with similar injuries who died, so we were all very nervous about her chances of recovery.

"After initial treatment, the signs were not good, as she could not move her left side and was unable to express emotion.

"Although there were to be further complications, Kamila is now interacting with the people around her and even smiling. We consider Kamila our miracle child. She was such a morale-booster, because we see so many kids that do not make it."

During their recovery at Kandahar the girls went out to the flight line and waved at the helicopters taxiing past, getting very excited when the crews waved back.

With the onset of winter, the girls were presented with new coats and shoes and, for a while, they refused to take them off, wearing them everywhere.

The British neurosurgeon who cared for Kamila commented:

"The majority of people I have treated on each deployment are children under 15 years, and the most common injuries have been as a result of IEDs.

"It is great when it works out, as in this case. It makes it all worthwhile. It takes the whole team to make it work: fantastic ICU [Intensive Care Unit] support, nursing staff and physiotherapists, especially as the hospital is not scaled for humanitarian medical aid."

Kamila's father stayed close throughout the girls' treatment. Through an interpreter he reported that he was very happy with the care that they had received. However, he did have some concerns about what might happen upon their return. He said it would be dangerous, as the Taliban may ask him where they have been.

Kamila and her family will continue to receive medical support from the Forward Operating Base closest to their home.

The girls enjoyed a flight back to Musa Qaleh district centre on board a British Chinook that was returning on routine tasking.

As the helicopter flew away from the hospital, the medical staff were clearly moved by the loss of their young charges, but grateful that the girls' recovery allowed them to go home.