|Sandy Gall visits RCSEd for Afghanistan talk|
|Friday, 25 May 2012|
The veteran reporter and broadcaster has delivered a lecture at the RCSEd on his extensive work in the troubled country, writes Emma Black
In March this year, Culture 24 announced their initiative to team up with some of the UK’s top publishing houses and offer venues the chance to work with authors on events for Museums at Night; this is an annual UK festival which seeks to encourage and inspire people into visiting museums, galleries and heritage sites. The Culture 24 proposal provided the RCSEd’s Museum with the opportunity to host a talk by writer and broadcaster Sandy Gall CBE on his recent publication The War Against the Taliban: Why it all went wrong in Afghanistan.
At the event on 19 May, the audience was fascinated by Mr Gall’s examination of the emotive issue of equipment shortages, his exposition of the extent to which the drug trade has corrupted the country, and how he assessed the accusation of endemic, systemic failure within the MOD. The War Against the Taliban: Why it all went wrong in Afghanistan addresses the challenges – political, religious, military – that face those now fighting on the most dangerous frontier in the world.
The Museum was chosen to host this event due to our demonstrable enthusiasm to engage the public in historic and topical subjects. However, a further factor was the strong link between the objectives of the College and Sandy Gall’s Afghanistan Appeal.
Sandy Gall’s latest book has been described by journalist Tim Evans as ‘the third instalment of a long personal engagement with Afghanistan that began in 1981’. As such, Mr Gall’s publication and lecture both offer a remarkable personal and professional insight into a conflict which few of us fully understand and explores the question we all want to ask: why has it gone so badly wrong?
Drawing on his own interviews with NATO military leaders, Western diplomats, Afghan and US politicians, ordinary Afghans, plus a wealth of contemporary writings,
Mr Gall’s involvement in Afghanistan goes even deeper than his extensive work as a foreign correspondent; he has written several books and made three documentaries about Afghanistan. In 1986, Sandy and his wife Eleanore set up the charity Sandy Gall’s Afghanistan Appeal (SGAA), which treats disabled Afghans and provides support to people who have lost limbs in combat.
“Mr Gall offers a remarkable personal and professional insight into a conflict which few of us fully understand”
Since its beginnings, the charity has provided artificial limbs and walking aids for more than 20,000 patients and physiotherapy treatment for nearly 50,000 patients. SGAA has observed how the needs of the disabled Afghan population have increased over the past decade; “Initially the majority of patients were war-related casualties including mine-blast victims and children from the refugee camps suffering from post-polio paralysis. Today, SGAA helps a wide variety of patients including children with polio, cerebral palsy and congenital defects such as clubfoot, defects of the hip and spine and TB of the spine. Women patients suffer from orthopaedic problems such as osteo-arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fractures and soft tissue injuries and neurological complaints.”
The charity sends consultants to Afghanistan twice a year and besides the medical care given, SGAA provides an extensive education programme training students to carry out procedures and delivering a community outreach programme to provide health education and improve referral rates and disability information. SGAA also aims to upgrade the skills of technicians and to provide administrative training and management courses for senior staff.
Funding for Afghanistan has become increasingly difficult for SGAA; the European Union has withdrawn all funding and this has imposed enormous strains on the charity. Since 1988, SGAA has trained more than 70 physiotherapists and physiotherapy assistants who work all over Afghanistan and in the refugee villages in Pakistan. Their departments provide an average of 2000 patient treatments a month.
SGAA now relies on ‘a hard core of loyal and generous donors’.
For more information on the work of the SGAA, visit: www.sandygallsafghanistanappeal.org/