16 March 2016

Finding Hope amidst Conflict in Kabul

16 March 2016 - Written by Gemma Padley

Alessandro Rota’s photograph of two newborn babies in the MSF trauma centre in Afghanistan’s capital offers a moment of peace in a war-stricken region.

© Alessandro Rota, from the reportage, Kabul on the Brink

Joy can be found in war-torn countries, and life carries on, even in hostile regions. In this image we glimpse inside the post-natal care unit of a hospital in Kabul where newborn babies are treated for jaundice using light therapy.

I’d travelled to Afghanistan - my first time in the country - in autumn 2015. It was an interesting time for Kabul. The US military attack on Kunduz hospital had just happened and the country was facing a new strong offensive by Taliban forces. Isis also announced their presence there, and because of this, countries including the US and Italy renewed their mandates. It seemed to me to be a pivotal moment to be in the country.

The hospital is in a suburb of the capital and is run by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Myself and another journalist decided to visit after a meeting with MSF while following up on the Kunduz incident. Upon arriving, the staff explained the activities of the hospital and took us to every unit, including the post-natal care unit.

As a man, and someone who was clearly not from the region, I didn’t expect to be accepted so easily inside the unit and allowed to take photographs so freely. The MSF staff did a great job of explaining the purpose of my visit, which made my job much easier.

I had to photograph quickly because there wasn’t much time; the doctors were doing their normal tasks and the mothers wanted to be in peace with their babies. Photography is often like that - there is too little time to take the image you have seen in your mind before you must rush away.

Being inside the unit was a fantastic, positive and joyful experience. I felt a huge contrast between this place and the rest of the city where weapons are easily available and car bombs are widespread. In Kabul, feelings of insecurity can consume you. But travelling to conflict regions and documenting the situation on the ground is my job, my life and my duty; it is what I have chosen to do.

I believe it is necessary for all of us to remember what war is, and what the long-term consequences may be. But sometimes we forget about the people - ordinary humans like the rest of us - who are trapped in warzones. Not every Afghan is actively engaged in the fighting; there are civilians who need protection and assistance. How will these babies grow up if their country doesn’t become stable and achieve peace?


Alessandro Rota is a reportage photographer covering areas of crisis and conflict.

Gemma Padley is a freelance writer and editor on photography, based in the UK.


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Gemma Padley

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