A baby wounded in a shooting that killed his mother in Afghanistan's Kandahar city has a 50 per cent chance of survival, doctors told The National.
The baby’s father, Assadullah, chief of criminal investigations with the police, said the attack happened as he was driving his wife to hospital after she went into labour.
“I was outside when I got a call that the mother of my children who was pregnant was feeling sick, so I rushed home and took her to the hospital. Our little daughter also came with us,” said Assadullah, 30.
He said that while driving to the hospital, he noticed they were being followed by men on motorcycles.
He took out his gun because of the increase in attacks on Afghan security officials.
“I changed routes to shake them off, but they caught up to us and started shooting," Assadullah said. "Before I could react they had shot me in the leg twice.
“I could hear my wife saying she had also been shot. I thought, 'If I stop the car they will get me', so I kept driving until I reached the hospital."
He received treatment while his wife was taken for an emergency Caesarean section.
"The mother didn't make it and the baby had to be born prematurely and is suffering from many issues," Dr Jalaluddin Momand, a paediatrician, told The National.
The baby is in a critical condition.
“The oxygen and glucose hasn’t reached his brain and usually in cases like this, even in developed countries like the US, the chances of survival are about 50 per cent,” Dr Momand said.
There has been a sharp increase in assassination attempts in Afghanistan since the US signed a peace deal with the Taliban in February last year.
The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission recorded 2,250 assassinations – an increase of 169 per cent since 2019 – in 2020.
And children are being caught in the crossfire.
The latest report by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan documented 2,619 child casualties in 2020, accounting for 30 per cent of the total.
Last year, extremists attacked a maternity clinic in Kabul, killing 25 people including medical staff, new mothers and babies.
Among those wounded in the attack were babies who were less than a few hours old.
“Day by day this war gets uglier and most of its victims are children,” said Dr Najeebullah Bina, a paediatric surgeon in Kabul who treated the wounded infants after the attack.
Dr Bina's most well-known patient, Baby Amina, was shot in the leg several times and survived after an operation.
Despite his years of experience, treating an increasing number of wounded children takes a toll.
“Of course, helping those suffering is our honour, but to watch the pain in little innocent bodies can be very emotionally overwhelming," Dr Bina said.
"Treating them required a very strong mind and resolve."
Violence in the country has increased despite negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
While most attacks are unclaimed, Afghan security blames the Taliban for the increase in killings.
“Government officials are being killed here every day,” said Assadullah’s brother, Ezatullah.
"We didn’t even get a warning but we know that Assadullah was targeted by the Taliban for his work in the Afghan security.
“And now even though he survived, my sister-in-law is dead and a motherless baby is fighting for his life. Where is the justice in that?"
Assadullah is recovering from his injuries but his baby’s condition is extremely serious.
“Even if the baby survives, he will be disabled,” Dr Momand said.
Dr Bina called for an immediate ceasefire, a demand that has been made repeatedly by Afghans.
“All over Afghanistan, from Badakhshan to Nimruz, there are thousands of child victims of violence," he said.
"We have to stop this ugly war as soon as possible to mitigate the damage."