MHB doctor on aid mission for children in Afghanistan

Neuruppin, 19 January 2022

Jenny Becker was among the first medical graduates of the MHB. Guest commentary by Sigmar Trenkler, MOZ (Märkische Oderzeitung) on her motivation to go to Afghanistan despite the Taliban.

Jenny Becker was one of the first students to enroll at the Brandenburg Medical School (MHB) in Neuruppin. She received her license to practice medicine in summer 2021. Just a few months later she accompanied an aid mission to Afghanistan which the Taliban had long taken over by that time. But the mother of three with a job in Lindow was prepared to take the risk.

“I did not really believe there was a 50 percent chance of being shot down”, so the 42-year-old physician. Not least the thought of her own children would have discouraged her. “I completed my medical studies at the MHB to become a country doctor, but also to provide voluntary medical aid in humanitarian projects.”

Peace and conflict researcher

Prior to her medical training the physician had worked as a peace and conflict researcher in NGO settings. Experience from that time convinced her that the risks of the aid mission were lower than some suspected, and that the Taliban or even the IS were not to be assumed to shoot down the plane. And precisely because she has three children of her own, she was unable to refuse.

She accompanied an intervention by the NGO “Friedensdorf International” to pick up 27 wounded children between three and twelve years from Kabul. The original plan had been to take them to Germany in August, but that was prevented by the departure of the Western forces and the takeover by the Taliban.

They came to Kabul from all over the country, by motorcycle, by donkey or on foot. They had been waiting ever since, some of them with their parents, others all alone. The doctor remembers that they were underfed and filthy, some in a much-deteriorated state of health: “Some were traumatized, and then had to entrust themselves to strangers and enter a plane for the first time in their life.”

Difficult preparations

Jenny Becker reports that the organization had problems finding a plane in the first place. The Kabul tower was no longer serviced, so nobody was willing to head for Kabul. In the end they found two former Russian military pilots – a father and son with children of their own - who were confident to land and take off everywhere and who believed in the mission. The German team started out in a chartered machine, the first European mission to Kabul since the Taliban came into power.

Treatment in Germany

Time was pressing; some of the children suffered from bone inflammation, with blood poisoning or death as a possible consequence. Others, so the doctor, had burns, one boy a urinary bladder outside the body. Some children were unable to close their eyes or mouth properly because of older burns.

In Germany it is relatively unproblematic to treat medical conditions of this type surgically, but not under conditions existing in Afghanistan. This is one of the criteria applied by the Red Crescent society, the partner organization on site, in the selection of children. “Friedensdorf International” takes charge of the children’s treatment in Germany before they return home.

Initial care in flight

The Germans were not permitted to leave the plane in Kabul. Jenny Becker then provided initial care during the flight to Düsseldorf. She identified those children who required immediate further treatment in Germany.

She would not hesitate to go on another aid mission despite the challenges involved, so Jenny Becker. But her full-time job at the clinic in Lindow where she is in training as a general practitioner, and three children at home leave not much room for other activities. Still, she is interested to learn about the fate of the young patients she helped to bring over from Kabul and thinking about a visit to Oberhausen where the Friedensdorf hosts the children. Such visits are not part of the plan, but contacts with “Friedensdorf International” keep her informed and she can rest assured that the children are in good hands.