Suspension of SCA leaves thousands without orthopedic aids

Tens of thousands of people with disability used to get support from the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA) every year. They were offered physiotherapy, orthopedic aids, and support to become financially self-sufficient. But after SCA was forced to pause activities, following a decree from the IEA, their future is uncertain.

One of the affected is Habibullah, who lives in Kunduz province. He lost one of his legs due to diabetes a year ago, and after SCA’s orthopedic workshop was closed, he has not been able to get the prosthesis he badly needs.

“After losing my leg, I went to the orthopedic workshop in Taloqan, where they took measurements to make an artificial leg for me. But then unfortunately, all activities of this programme were suspended. I visited the workshop multiple times without being able to get my artificial leg. I have been waiting for six months to see SCA resume its activities,” he says.

No alternatives to SCA services

In Kunduz and two of its neighbouring provinces, Takhar and Baghlan, orthopedic services are only provided by SCA. There is no other NGO offering similar services, and no state-run orthopedic workshop. Thousands of people with disabilities are now left without the orthopedic aids and rehabilitation they need. Most of them are poor and do not have the financial means to travel to distant provinces for help. For each day, their situation is getting worse, with increasing concern about the future.

Habibullah set up a small shop in his village after receiving an interest-free loan from SCA. The income from his small business is enough to support his family, and after being promised a prosthetic leg, he was looking forward to not being reliant on others for help. But now that hope is fading.

“I am now facing many difficulties and cannot come to my shop alone. I need the help of others to transfer me to the shop, because it is very difficult to walk with crutches. If I had my leg, I would not need the help of others,” Habibullah says.

Comprehensive disability programme

SCA has provided services to people with disabilities since the 1990s. It has the most comprehensive disability programme of all national and international organisations in Afghanistan. In 2023, 18,000 people received orthopedic aids from SCA and 20,500 people received physiotherapy. 6,000 children with disabilities received education.

SCA paused all its activities in response to a decree from the Islamic Emirate Afghanistan (IEA) which called for the suspension of all “Sweden’s activities” following the burning of copies of the Holy Quran in Sweden. SCA has strongly condemned and distanced itself from these acts. SCA is an impartial organisation with no links to the Swedish government or any other government. The organisation has around 7,000 Afghan staff, and receive funding from a broad range of donors.

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