By Fariba Nawa
October 31, 2001
Agence France Presse
Peshawar, Pakistan — Gholam Dastagir lay still as his blood dripped into a plastic bag. For the 55-year-old Afghan refugee, any mild discomfort was offset by the knowledge that a pint of his blood could keep one of the Taliban’s battle-hardened troops alive and ready to fight another day against their US and Northern Alliance enemies.
“If the Taliban get this blood, it’s good,” he said. “I want them to defeat America,” he said. Dastagir’s own personal contribution to the war effort was made at one of the many blood banks that have been set up in this refugee — dominated city since the US began bombing Afghanistan on October 7.
Around a dozen have popped up in mosques and near hospitals asking people to give their blood and their money to help the casualties of war.
The blood bank where Dastagir was giving his blood was opened last week by the Afghan Commission for Human Rights in front of Khyber Hospital on the city’s University Road. Five to 10 rupee bills were strewn on a donation table in front of the site. By the end of a typical day around 2,000 rupees (33 dollars) has been gathered, according to one of the aid workers at the site.
More importantly, the organization has collected about 90 half-litres (pints) of blood from both men and women. An average of 20 to 30 people, mostly Pakistanis, give blood every day, according to Lal Gul, the chairman of the organization.
Gul said the blood is to be delivered to hospitals inside Afghanistan but so far none of them have run out of their own stocks. It also goes to help the large number of injured Afghans who travel to Pakistan for treatment.
Gul said about 33 Afghan civilians and two Taliban soldiers had received treatment at the Khyber hospital. Six or seven were given the donated blood.
While many Afghans and Pakistanis are happy to give their blood to help injured civilians, not all are happy about the prospect of aiding Taliban fighters.
“I would never donate my blood in these places. They just want to help the Taliban,” said one Afghan refugee who did not want to give his name.
Gul denied the accusation and said the blood and money are for all those injured in the war. “No one is helping these injured people. I’m upset with the United Nations and Red Cross for not serving those who are injured. So I’m glad that we can do it,” he said.
The aid worker running the blood bank has taken out ads in the newspaper calling for donors and is happy with the turnout. He expects demand for blood to increase as the war continues. Khyber provides the medical supplies for the blood and its staff make sure the blood is clean before it is used in treatment, Gul said.