Since the last military flight out of Kabul and the Khider District Massacre, both events occurring on 30 August 2021, Chapman and Pritchard have co-authored numerous heartbreaking stories about Afghans in peril.
By Scott Chapman and Russ Pritchard
Operation Freedom Birds facilitates safe and reliable air transport for American Citizens and Afghan Allies, including asylum seekers currently hiding in Afghanistan. Acronyms associated with these categories include: AMCIT’s, SIV, P1, and P2. The acronyms represent human beings hunted by the Taliban. Primarily a volunteer organization with a pending 501C3 nonprofit status, Operation Freedom Birds does not hold a political view. It is a humanitarian operation to save lives in imminent danger from the Taliban. Through working relationships with other evacuation efforts and maintaining open lines of communication with the Department of State, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, Members of Congress, and numerous subject matter experts, Operation Freedom Birds provides transport from Afghanistan’s neighboring countries and operates strictly within airports and legal air spaces.
Flooded by requests from around the world, the unanimous message vocalized to Operation Freedom Birds is a fear-driven plea for help. In recent weeks, many have had friends and family tortured and killed by the Taliban; many are actively being hunted and in peril. Entire families, 15 or more, move every few days, hoping to stay ahead of the Taliban while waiting for a mechanism of transport to safety.
This is one story:
Afghanistan in the 1970’s mirrored the styles and attitudes in the United States. Female lawmakers spoke out in Afghanistan’s Parliament; Journalists wrote freely of events around the country; Universities flourished with student life; Girls wore mini skirts. Tourists, enchanted by the beautiful scenery, gardens, bazaars, and cosmopolitan feel of Kabul, the capital, called it the “Paris of Central Asia.”
Present day Kabul looks nothing like the city of a half century ago. Estimated to have over 4.6 million residents prior to the fall of the Government to the Taliban this past August, some estimate there are one hundred thousand people hiding in Kabul with relatives, friends, and even in abandoned buildings. Taliban forces patrol the twenty-two districts and have checkpoints looking for journalists, teachers, and anyone who showed loyalty to the American Forces and the previous government. Once identified, many have been executed on the spot. Previous men and women who served in the Afghan National Army are particularly at risk.
This past week, the Afghan Medical Corps received a request for assistance.
A young couple hides in the basement of a partially destroyed home. The windows have been blown out and the roof partially collapsed. At night, the temperatures drop into the thirties. The couple married the year before. The 28 year old husband served with the Afghanistan National Army Special Forces, and his 26 year old wife had worked as a journalist for one of the television stations. Afraid to be seen in public, the young couple never leaves the basement in daylight, and relies on food and supplies provided by friends. A cell phone solar charger keeps their communication link intact.
The young wife, pregnant for the first time, ceased her prenatal care at six and a half months because she could no longer see her Doctor. For several weeks, friends brought her prenatal vitamins, but they became hard to find due to shortages and stopped all together mid-September. In October, two of the husband’s family members disappeared, and recent reports of female journalists and activists killed by the Taliban further cemented the decision of the young couple to remain in the basement and deliver the baby themselves.
The husband researched delivery methods on the internet for several days. He prepared with blankets from friends and medical supplies stolen from a local pharmacy. When his wife’s water broke and she started contractions, he felt ready.
Eighteen hours later, at 12:30am Kabul time, the husband called a friend to say the baby wasn’t coming, and he didn’t know what to do. The friend told them to go to the hospital, but the husband said if they encountered the Taliban, biometric scanning would reveal his identity and his wife’s face was easily recognizable from television. They would be killed. The friend called another friend who called another who called another. The fourth person into the link said he knew of an organization who might know someone who could help. Eventually, the sixth person in the chain reached the Afghan Medical Corps.
Established in the United States, the Afghan Medical Corps is a loosely formed group of medical professionals and facilities in Afghanistan who put medicine and the treatment of the afflicted ahead of religious and political ideologies. For purposes of security and protecting those who help their fellow Afghans, nothing more can be said.
Within an hour of the husband reaching out, a primary physician in Kabul called the husband and referred a female OB/GYN who followed up with both husband and wife. Early evening in the States, the Afghan Medical Corps also had an OB/GYN on standby in the U.S. Midwest, should the Afghan OB/GYN have to cease communication.
When the baby finally came four hours later, all the husband could convey through the screams was, “I can see my wife’s breath, I can see my own breath, but I cannot see my baby’s breath.”
Despite the best efforts of the local OB/GYN, resuscitation by cell phone did not prove effective. The baby was set aside on the ground as the Doctor talked the father and mother through the delivery of her placenta.
Just before the sun came up in Kabul, the young parents buried their baby just outside the house. They named him Abdul.
At the time of this writing, an OB/GYN in Kabul instructs the mother to wrap her milk laden breasts tightly with a cloth and to place cool compresses on them. She also says to take Ibuprofen. The Doctor wore a disguise so she could take photographs of a medicine in a local pharmacy known as Bromocryptine. All have been dropped off at the basement entrance. One will ease the inflammation, one will dry up the mother’s milk, but nothing will ease the pain.
The husband’s last communication was “Tonight she is near to me. She cries a lot.”
While the above story may be shocking, it is the second deceased baby for the Afghan Medical Corps in the last 72 hours. The Afghan Medical Corps works with numerous volunteer organizations to develop a census of pregnant Afghan families in hiding, a plan to continue prenatal care, and a means to provide safe deliveries.
UNICEF states the following, “Afghanistan remains one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a baby, a child or a mother, and access to a hospital or health facility is beyond the reach of most. The country has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world and thousands of Afghan women die every year from pregnancy-related causes, a majority of which can be easily preventable.”
A prominent U.S. Board certified OB/GYN Physician with over twenty-five years experience delivering babies and Department Chair at her hospital offered up the following, “The already concerning maternal and perinatal morbidity & mortality in Afghanistan is now escalating rapidly over the past 2 months. This is due to pregnant mothers no longer seeking prenatal care because of fear of the Taliban repercussions but also the lack of physicians & midwives to care for them in a clean safe hospital with necessary supplies. This is causing parents to choose home births due to the dire consequences of seeking obstetrical care. Babies and mothers are dying needlessly. The emotional impact from this will take a severe toll on these mothers and their families. I beg the World Health Organization to address this women’s health issue immediately to the Taliban. Afghanis MUST be free to not only seek care without fear but have adequate medical care available- especially emergency care.”
Help the women and future children of Afghanistan.
Help the Afghan Medical Corps.
Help Operation Freedom Birds.
Scott Chapman is an independent journalist, author, former Army Ranger, OGA Blackwater contractor, entrepreneur, husband, dog lover, and astrophysics scholar. Scott is the co-founder of the Afghan Medical Corps and can be reached at ScottChapmanAuthor@Protonmail.com
Russ Pritchard is an independent journalist, professional writer, former Chief Marketing Officer, flight medic, triathlete, husband, father, and grandfather. Russ is the co-founder of the Afghan Medical Corps and can be reached at RussPritchard@Protonmail.com