What The Lashkar Gah Hospital Looks Like Since The Last U.S. Planes Left Afghanistan
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
To help grasp day-to-day life in Afghanistan and how it's changing, one of the people we've been checking in with is Filipe Ribeiro. He runs the Afghanistan office of Doctors Without Borders. I first spoke with him on August 6, nine days before Kabul fell to the Taliban. And then he was describing the situation in Lashkar Gah, one of the cities where his medical teams operate, as horrific - daily bombings, burn and shrapnel wounds, stray bullets flying around the hospital compound.
When we checked back August 19, it was a different scene, much calmer. The Lashkar Gah hospital was full but not all war injuries. They were delivering healthy babies again. Well, we have asked Filipe Ribeiro back to hear how it's going now that the U.S. military is gone and the Taliban have announced an interim government.
Hi there. Good to speak with you again.
FILIPE RIBEIRO: Hello. Good to speak to you, too.
KELLY: Tell me about Lashkar Gah and how it's going now. This is southern Afghanistan. What does your team say? How are they describing the situation today?
RIBEIRO: The situation is very calm in the south. I mean, it's basically very calm all over the place in Lashkar Gah but also in the rest of the country. Life is somehow back to some kind of normalcy, if I can put it that way.
KELLY: Do you have enough supplies? I'm reading about supply line disruptions, flights not coming in and delivering much-needed goods.
RIBEIRO: We have enough supply for no because, basically, we are the plane - we arrived in Kabul actually on 13 of August, two days before the fall, and we were able to supply all of our projects.
KELLY: How long will those supplies last?
RIBEIRO: For a couple of weeks, if not months.
KELLY: I want to ask about what your relationship looks like with the Taliban, which is now running Afghanistan. When we last spoke, you had been in contact with them.
KELLY: They were not placing restrictions on your women staffers. Is that still the case?
RIBEIRO: It's still the case. It's still the case. Our relations are, let's say - I mean, how can I put it? Professional - we do not have any restrictions put on our work for the time being. But, of course, as you can imagine, the - we are still in the phase of a transition.
KELLY: So basically, they're leaving you alone for the most part to do your work.
RIBEIRO: Yeah. We can say so. Yes, indeed. They let us work. But the support of the state, if I can say so, is missing because the administration is not functioning for the time being.
KELLY: And what does that mean - without the support of the state, what have you lost?
RIBEIRO: Well, getting visas in, getting the authorizations to import stuff, having a proper banking system working and functional, having enough cash in the country - basic stuff.
KELLY: Yeah, so you said you have enough supplies. Let's talk about money and these reports that the banking system in Afghanistan is on the verge of collapse. How does that impact you and your operations?
RIBEIRO: It impacts all of us, and the first ones to be impacted are actually the Afghans that are facing a lot of difficulties to have access to their savings and their bank accounts. As you may know, the people cannot withdraw more than $200 a week from the banks. And even so, they have to queue for hours without any guarantee to have access to money because we are all running short of cash.
KELLY: So in Kabul, as you move about your daily life, what does it feel like compared to the spring, compared to a few months ago?
RIBEIRO: How can I put it? First, it's very quiet and very calm, I have to say. Less people in the streets, but it's also linked with the fact that a lot of people do not have work anymore. Less fear before the takeover. As you may know, explosions were somehow very common. And nowadays, there is not - no more of that. Meanwhile, the city is safer, but it's very, very quiet.
KELLY: Are there certain things you're watching for - signposts, milestones, markers in all of this - that might cause you to think, OK, this is looking more risky; maybe it is time to go?
RIBEIRO: Well, you know, looking at the economic situation, one thing that we might be worried about is what will be the consequence when it comes to criminality and people trying to, basically, find ways to leave? This is one of the main concerns that we are having. The second concern that we are having is, as you have seen, there is no - not any more resistance or fight going on, but we might expect some kind of armed opposition to emerge at some stage and how it's going to be organized or how it's going to work out. The third point that is a concern for us is the presence of the Islamic State Khorasan. That is indeed one of the major concerns for all of us - and starting for the Afghans, actually.
KELLY: That is Filipe Ribeiro. He runs MSF, Doctors Without Borders in Afghanistan.
Thank you. Good to speak with you again.
RIBEIRO: Thanks a lot. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.