His mother fanned away the flies with her headscarf as he laid on the gurney, medication making him pain-free for probably the first time in years. The doctors and nurses who entered the room wore surgical masks to cover the smell.
Twelve year old Chamangul Gahn has the body of a boy half his age. But his head is abnormally large, swollen with infection and cancer, malformed and wrapped with bandages. His mother brought him to the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) mobile clinic in Puli Charkhi village after being turned away from hospitals inside Kabul.
MSF doctors here say he has an aggressive form of sarcoma that has rotted most of his head, one ear and eye are completely gone. His mother feeds him with a straw.
She is a widow, living with her seven other children in a tent surrounded by other Afghans displaced by the violence and weak economy. Her oldest, 15 years old, is a day-laborer to keep the family alive. The mother has already buried two of her children of Chamangul’s same illness.
If it was caught earlier, maybe the doctors here could have helped, they say. But for now, it is only about easing the pain.