Blog reveals Afghanistan medic Karen Woo's dedication

Karen Woo holding a baby at The French Medical Institute for Children in Kabul Dr Woo documented her efforts to help ordinary Afghans

Related Stories

Blog posts written by Briton Dr Karen Woo, named as one of 10 members of a medical team shot dead in Afghanistan, offer a human insight into the aid mission to the war-torn country.

The BBC understands that Dr Woo gave up a well-paid job with private healthcare provider Bupa to work in Afghanistan for minimal financial reward.

She died alongside six Americans, a German and two Afghan interpreters who had been working with Christian charity the International Assistance Mission to provide eye care in remote villages.

Her blog posts reveal that she was driven by a desire to improve the lives of ordinary Afghans - and spread the word about their plight.

On the blog-hosting website Bridge Afghanistan, Dr Woo described the effect on her of a 2009 visit to Kabul, and told of her plans to make a documentary.

Start Quote

All of these people come to Afghanistan of their own volition, they come knowing that they may pay with their lives”

End Quote

"The things that I saw during that visit made me, as a doctor, want to bring back the human stories both good and bad," she wrote.

"The access that a doctor or healthcare professional has to a community is unlike that available to a journalist; the trust and conversations are different.

"The insight is through the lens of birth and death, of loss and disability, and reflects every aspect of the consequences of conflict on individuals and on their community."

However, it is her personal blog, Dr Karen Explores Healthcare in Afghanistan, which provides the most revealing account of her experiences.

Talking wittily about her domestic routine and her pets, as well as her frenetic job, she painted an absorbing picture of her daily existence.

She also spoke of her desire to improve the lives of the Afghans whose hardships she witnessed close up.

"One minute you're elbow deep in a bowel repair operation, the next you're in the back of an ISAF military vehicle," is how she described her chaotic routine.

But it appears to be one from which she gained much satisfaction.

"It's strange, in a way, as I feel quite at home, though I know that life here for most of my friends back home would seem like one hellish choice to have made," she wrote in another entry.

Dr Karen Woo Dr Woo expressed her anger at suicide bombers

Dr Woo also vented her fury at the Taliban after describing treating passers-by caught in a suicide bomb blast.

"Civilian Afghans just going about their daily business, without the luxury of armored cars or close protection, these, the most vulnerable people are taken out by so called taliban insurgents," she wrote.

And she admits her own fears and the coping strategies of those who had volunteered to join the humanitarian effort.

"All of these people come to Afghanistan of their own volition, they come knowing that they may pay with their lives," she observed.

"The black humour is rife, a good way to keep the apprehension low, to keep calm and carry on. Perhaps no one ever expects it to be them, perhaps not their immediate friends either."

Poignantly, as the trip to Nuristan loomed, she admitted her fears that her medical knowledge would be insufficient.

"The trek scares the living daylights out of me right now, what if I'm not good enough," she said.

But her sense of duty drove her forward to the end.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More UK stories