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An “unexpectedly high number” of babies and children are being handed to troops in Kabul, a British Army surgeon has said.
Lt Col Benjamin Caesar, himself a father to a 14 month old, used his experience of parenthood to settle a baby passed to US Marines who ended up at the hospital in which he is working.
"We took her for a walk, walked around the hospital, managed to burp her a few times," he told the PA news agency.
“So while she gently settled down, she was handed on to one of the nursing staff who managed to rock her off to sleep."
The trauma and orthopaedic surgeon from 16 Medical Regiment, Royal Army Medical Corps, revealed the mollified baby was reunited with her mother and moved to a safe location outside Afghanistan.
Britain and the US have told people to avoid Kabul airport over fears of an imminent terrorist attack.
Lt Col Caesar is working at the Role 2 hospital, set up for injured personnel and Afghans going through the evacuation process at Kabul airport.
He has been confronted with gunshot, flashbang and crowd-crush injuries, as well people suffering from heatstroke and those whose medical supplies have run out.
He has also been confronted with a problem he did not expect: a multitude of children passed to troops over walls topped with barbed wire at Kabul airport.
“Both the Norwegians, the US and ourselves took turns taking care of those children and offering them the pastoral care that they needed while they waited to be either shipped on to a safe destination or reunited with their parents,” Lt Col Caesar said.
He said although he never knew what was going to come through the door – and the numbers of people coming through were “much higher than expected” – he felt it was “absolutely necessary” that troops were in Afghanistan.
“I don’t think anyone foresaw the crushing sea of humanity at the gate and how they were going to be affected by the situation.
“There was also the unpleasant situation where people got on to the runway. We were very concerned at that point that we will be dealing with large numbers of casualties that could have overwhelmed this facility.”
Lt Col Caesar was deployed to Camp Bastion in Afghanistan 18 months after enrolling as an Army reservist in 2011. After returning, he transferred to full-time regular service.
He said success for the troops would mean “no coalition forces significantly injured or left behind, no injured UK service personnel and as many Afghan nationals who wish to leave being brought to safety”.
“It’s so sad to see all this ongoing human suffering but, conversely, when people are at their lowest, we are able to help them.”