First Look: ‘Afghanistan — Red Cross’


Stories of transformation and triumph from chaos and disaster occur at the unlikely International Red Cross Orthopedic Center in Kabul.

Consider the life of an amputee in a landscape of desperate unemployment, rocky mountain terrain, scarce survival resources and continued danger in a war zone. Then consider the future of a female amputee in a culture rigidly enforcing the dependence of females on the men who marry them.

Enter Alberto Cairo, the miracle-worker director and head physiotherapist for the Red Cross in Afghanistan. He is called by the Afghans The Angel of Kabul.

This documentary clip chronicles the experience of several patients he has served. Once a patient comes to his center he works to guarantee a full program of recovery, both physical and mental.

He has hired from his patients, crippled victims of war-related dismemberment, many of his 300 staff members. Being that they have been through the horrors of being maimed and the experience of rehabilitation, he reports that they provide outstanding expertise to their job. In many cases, ironically, they are also the sole providers for their extended families as work is scarce in Afghanistan.

The narrator reports that Cairo first arrived in Kabul when he was 35 and has remained through five violent Afghan regime changes. The handsome, charismatic Cairo remembers, “The Russians had just gone, and then the Communists, and then the Mujahideen and then the Taliban, and now Karzai.”

A young boy is brought to the center. His father reports to the viewer how his son lost his leg. “There was blood everywhere. My nephew died instantly. His intestine was out of his abdomen. My son, Khania, was blown into the canal next to the road by the force of the landmine. He was almost dead. When we took him from the canal he was unconscious.”

After months of reconstructive surgeries on other parts of his body and the construction of a prosthesis for his missing leg, the clip shows Khania learning to walk and leaving to return to home. As he ages he will return to be fitted for successive appliances that adapt to his growth. He is on Cairo’s life plan of support.

Farzana is another story. Her leg was blasted away by a landmine right outside her home. While at Cairo’s center she asked him for the chance to be educated. He ended up paying for a personal teacher to take her through grades one to 12. She completed the 12 years in seven and now, Cairo proudly recounts, “She is the best technician at the Red Cross Center.”

As time has gone on, the orthopedic center has expanded its services to people with all forms of physical handicaps, including cerebral palsy and forms of birth defects.

While the center is a godsend to Afghanistan, the narrator reports that “The International Red Cross estimates there are up to eight hundred thousand people with physical disabilities in Afghanistan. The Red Cross Orthopedic program reaches just over ten per cent; many thousands more are isolated without help.”

For a 23-minute clip on Cairo’s work, scroll down to “Afghanistan – Red Cross” when you go to this Webg site:


Reporter: Sally Sara
Editor: Simon Brynjolffssen
Camera: Wayne McAllister
Research: Matin Safi
Web site:
Clip Released: July 19, 2010

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1 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Jo`an Sterr #

    Nice. Another story of an amazing and wonderful person. Would that we could ALL make so much difference in the lives of others.