KABUL – Five-year-old Sayed Ahmad Rahman, who shot to fame after a video went viral on the internet showing him dancing with joy in a hospital room with his new artificial leg, wants to go school and become a doctor to serve his fellow countrymen.
His short video, posted on social media this month by an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) staff member, has now been viewed by millions of people and has earned him nationwide fame among Afghans, who praised him as a symbol of resilience in the face of the tragedy of the four-decade war.
The little boy lost his right leg four years ago when he was only eight months old in crossfire between government forces and Taliban fighters in their native village in eastern Afghanistan’s Logar province. The incident happened when Ahmad was taken by his elder sister to play outside their house.
Ahmad’s sister was lucky and recovered from her wounds, but doctors were unable to save Ahmad’s leg and amputated it below the knee.
“I am very, very happy now I have my leg. I can walk, I can dance and I can go school after this, thanks to God that now I have my leg,” Ahmad told EFE.
It is the fourth artificial limb he has had in the past four years provided for him by the ICRC orthopedic center in Kabul.
“With the help of this leg, my son now can walk and play. Nothing is more pleasant than to see your amputee son stand again on his own feet,” Raeesa, Ahmad’s mother, told EFE.
She is the only earner in the family, working in the fields to feed her family of 12, after her husband got sick years ago. She hopes Ahmad will become the breadwinner of her family in the future.
“I want to go school and become a doctor to help people, give them medicines and make (artificial) limbs for them to dance,” Ahmad said about his dream.
According to ICRC data, children make up 10 percent of Afghans who have lost a leg or arm in the ongoing conflict, particularly because of land mines.
Allah Muhammad, 14, is another child who lost his right leg below the knee five years ago to a land mine explosion while playing with other children on a hilltop near their houses in western Paghman district in Kabul province.
“There were lots of problems in my life when I lost my leg ... now I am comfortable with my artificial leg, now I can perform everything normally,” Muhammad told EFE. “I hope the ICRC continues its assistance to us for years to come.”
Najmuddin Helal, the head of ICRC’s Kabul Orthopedic Center, said “80 percent of the war amputees who lost a leg or arm are caused by land mines in Afghanistan.”
Anti-personnel mines and other explosive devices killed at least 256 children in 2018, a UN report said early this year.
“Children who survive such blasts live with lasting detrimental impact on their quality of life due to loss of limbs or eyesight and psychological trauma,” the report said.
The ICRC, which started its orthopedic services 30 years ago, said that out of the 180,000 disabled people registered with them, up to 55 percent had been disabled directly by war and the remainder by diseases and accidents as an indirect consequence of conflict.
“We can say the 80% disabilities are either directly caused by war or as indirect consequences of the war” as four decades of war have deprived people of even basic health services, said Dr. Shukrullah Zerak, who has worked for past 25 years as physiotherapist with the ICRC.
Zerak believes that the current physical rehabilitation services for disabled persons by ICRC and a few other NGOs are not sufficient and the government needs to take action.
“We still have lots of disabled persons who don’t have access to such services, either due to lack of facilities to arrive in orthopedic centers or due to lack of awareness of such services in remote parts of the country,” he said.
The Afghan government does not grant the rights of disabled persons guaranteed in international conventions for them in areas like health and education.
“Even governments don’t deliver on their own regulation, based on which 3-6 percent of employees of each organ must be disabled persons,” he said.
According to the most cited estimated data by government and humanitarian organizations, over 1 million Afghans suffer from some form of physical disability, mainly caused by conflict, congenital diseases and accidents. But only 130,000 of them are lucky to receive a monthly pension of less than $20 from the Afghan government which spends a big part of its foreign-donated budget on the war, whose main victims are civilians such as little Ahmad.
“I fear of nothing in the village, but when there is fighting I fear rockets and bullets,” Ahmad said.