TIME Afghanistan

New Report Reveals Woeful State of Afghanistan’s Health Care

A new report by Médecins Sans Frontières details gaping holes in Afghanistan's public health system as the country's occupation by foreign troops draws to an end

As the almost 13-year-occupation of Afghanistan by foreign troops draws to an end, a new report by Médecins Sans Frontières highlights jarring shortcomings in the public health system they’ll be leaving behind. These pictures, by documentary photographers Andrea Bruce and Mikhail Galustov, both of whom have spent years covering the war’s toll on the innocent, are paired with the aid group’s findings.

The report released Tuesday concludes that access to basic or emergency medical care remains hard to reach—or beyond grasp—for many Afghans despite years of Western involvement and billions of dollars in humanitarian assistance. Aid workers interviewed hundreds of hospital patients over the course of six months in Helmand, Kabul, Khost and Kunduz provinces. The results of their survey strike a blow to “prevailing narratives of progress,” says MSF, as battles with the Taliban rage and international aid dries up.

Some clinics lack qualified staff, specific medicines and even electricity, MSF was told. One-fifth of patients interviewed said a family member or close friend had died in the past year due to a lack of access to proper care. Among the main barriers for reaching treatment were high costs and lack of money, long distances and the armed conflict. “The fighting doesn’t stop when there are injured people, so we can’t get them to a doctor. So we wait, and then they die, and the fighting continues,” said one man, a 25-year-old principal in the northern Baghlan Province. “Even if you are able to move with your wounded, you still have to get through roadblocks, checkpoints, questioning and harassment before you can reach the hospital.” Forty percent of interviewees who reached the hospitals said they encountered those hardships, among others.

MSF does note that the number of health facilities has risen “considerably” over the past decade and that national statistics claim more than 57 percent of people now live within an hour’s walk of a public health facility—up from nine percent in 2001—but that’s just about all the good news that there is. With this report and accompanying photographs, the organization calls on international donors, other aid groups and the Afghan government to begin filling in the gaps and meeting the needs of a population wracked by decades of war before the situation gets any worse. —Andrew Katz

TIME Ukraine

Battleground Kiev: ‘Halfway Between a War and A Protest’

The latest unrest has left the center of Kiev aflame and hundreds injured as they count the dead

Bulent Kilic, an Istanbul-based photojournalist with Agence France-Presse, is hunkered down in Kiev as clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces intensify for a third day. At least 22 people have been killed Thursday, bringing this week’s total to at least 45. Kilic spoke with AFP on Thursday morning after photographing this sequence of three men who were set ablaze—and quickly extinguished. “It seems like protesters are used to dealing with this type of situation—no one seemed at all shocked. The guy in the background of the photo who is burning the most ran to the back of the barricade where some people took care of him.” Kilic said the gunfire across Independence Square reminded him of the sounds from when he covered Syria’s civil war in Aleppo: “It now feels like halfway between a war and a protest.”

TIME

The Muslims of the Central African Republic Face a Deadly Purge

Chadian civilians climb on a military chadian truck to go back to Chad on Jan. 15, 2014 in the PK12 district of Bangui.
Chadian civilians climb on a military chadian truck to go back to Chad on Jan. 15, 2014, in the PK12 district of Bangui. Eric Feferberg—AFP/Getty Images

This fragile African nation is witnessing unprecedented sectarian strife. Here's why.

The anti-balaka have outgrown their name. These militias in the Central African Republic, once united under a moniker meaning “anti-machete” in the local Sango language, are exacting their own vicious revenge upon the mainly Muslim rebels who overthrew the government last March and waged months of terror against the Christian population. They are now accused of atrocities far worse than what first prompted them to take up arms.

An Amnesty International report on Feb. 12 said attacks on Muslims in January by anti-balaka militias, made up of Christians and animists, had amounted to “ethnic cleansing.” Fatou Bensouda, chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court at The Hague, has already opened a preliminary investigation into crimes against humanity, saying some “victims appeared to have been deliberately targeted on religious grounds.” A top U.N. official issued similar warnings during a recent visit to the ravaged capital, Bangui, telling reporters: “There is an ethnic-religious cleansing taking place. It must be stopped.”

The campaign of looting and murder in recent weeks has led to an alarming demographic crisis in the Central African Republic. About 1 million of its 4.6 million people have been displaced and at least 2,000 have been killed. Muslims account for 15 percent of the population, or about 690,000 people; Médecins Sans Frontières said in a conference call with reporters on Feb. 18 that at least 80,000 had already left.

Entire neighborhoods in Bangui and towns in the northwest have emptied as a mass exodus pours into neighboring countries Cameroon and Chad. Aid groups fear the fleeing of Muslim traders and cattle herders, who are crucial to the country’s food production and distribution, may spark a famine.

The scene today vastly differs from last year. “If you drove across the country in November, you would have been impressed by the power of the Séléka,” says Joanne Mariner, a senior crisis adviser with Amnesty in Bangui, referring to the impact of the rebels’ offensive that began in late 2012. “Now if you drive across the country, you find anti-balaka everywhere. They are the people who are in control of the roads and the majority of the towns.”

William Lacy Swing, director-general of the International Organization for Migration and a young U.S. envoy to Bangui in the mid-1970s, was “shocked” by the scenes there during a trip in early February. “The Central African Republic that I knew at the time, this element now of inter-religious conflict was absent,” he told TIME, “and now it is at the heart of some of the problems.”

How political payback turned into a sectarian purge isn’t entirely understood. Experts gesture to spillover from conflicts throughout the region as well as the legacy of decades of poor governance in the former French colony.

But the country has no such precedent of religious strife. Louisa Lombard, a post-doctoral fellow and Central Africa expert at the University of California-Berkeley, said a main cause was the systemic marginalization of Muslims that ramped up after former President François Bozizé won power in 2003. Muslims, many of whom live in the isolated and underdeveloped northeast, were largely neglected and treated like “foreigners.”

This dispossession eventually led to Séléka’s formation. The rebels, supported by Chadian and Sudanese fighters, overran the state’s decayed army in late 2012 and quickly gained control of much of the country. Bozizé appointed a prime minister from the opposition and signed several peace deals with Séléka in Libreville, Gabon, the following January. But when he failed to honor the agreements, Séléka toppled his government and installed Michel Djotodia as the country’s first Muslim president.

The rebels favored Muslim civilians and bands of fighters terrorized Christian communities; mistrust grew as Muslims were viewed as complicit in Séléka’s rampages. Djotodia dissolved Séléka in September but the rebels continued their attacks, prompting the formation of the anti-balaka squads and an uptick in tit-for-tat violence. In early December, two days of carnage left hundreds dead.

Amadou Sy, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Africa Growth Initiative, said the immediate arrival of French and African Union peacekeepers was a turning point. Anti-balaka saw the wind changing and went underground. By early January, with Séléka in retreat and Djotodia forced out by regional powers, anti-balaka had reemerged with uncontrollable fury. After weeks of killing, Lombard said, “whatever social fabric that was once there has been torn to shreds.”

The turnaround led interim President Catherine Samba-Panza to declare war on anti-balaka and France to commit more troops. Even after the security situation is resolved, easing the humanitarian crisis and maintaining global attention on this ignored nation will be difficult. As thousands more Muslims look to flee their own country, it may already be too late.

TIME tribute

Remembrance: Leonard Knight’s Salvation Mountain

The famed folk artist died on Feb. 12.

Folk artist Leonard Knight, creator of Salvation Mountain, died on Monday afternoon in San Diego. He was 82.

It took Knight about three decades to paint and personalize the famed art installation in the desert of Niland, Calif., near the Salton Sea. Knight used adobe, straw and thousands of gallons of paint to personalize it with religious murals and technicolor Bible verses.

The site, which draws thousands of spectators every year, was Knight’s life project. Volunteers have been working to protect and maintain it since he was placed in a long-term care facility in late 2011.

Seattle-based photographer Aaron Huey met Knight seven years ago and returned to Salvation Mountain several times since then. He remembers the artist:

Leonard’s single mission in life was to spread the message that “God is Love” and though it references the Abrahamic “God,” his mountain truly transcended any individual faiths. He brought countless people together to marvel at both the mountain and his message. Living at the mountain full-time in the back of an old painted firetruck with no belongings beyond his clothes and a few coolers, he could be found surrounded by visitors every day of the week spreading his message of “Universal Love.” Though Leonard shrugged off the title of “artist,” his work—his single masterpiece—will surely be counted among the greatest pieces of folk art ever created.

I met Leonard seven years ago and his impact on my life has been immense. Leonard made me want to throw away all of my things. My computers, my phone, my career, my ego—and to help him build his mountain of mud and paint. Instead, I helped him carry a dozen hay bales up the mountain and promised to come back again. I returned a dozen times over six years to help him build, to photograph his work, and to try to better understand his humble genius. I had never met a man of such singular, unflinching vision and to this day I can say he is one of the most incredible people I have ever met in all the world.

Your message lives on, Leonard. Travel well my friend.

—Aaron Huey

TIME portfolio

Witness to Collapse: William Daniels in Central African Republic

Two months after hundreds of people were killed during street fighting between mainly Muslim rebels and Christian vigilantes in Central African Republic, a violent assault on the country’s Muslims appears to be underway.

Factions of Séléka rebels spent much of last year rampaging and pillaging through the majority Christian country, but their disbanding last fall and the departure of their leader, Michel Djotodia, in January turned the tide against them. Catherine Samba-Panza was voted his replacement and asked all fighters to lay down their arms. But Christian militiamen called anti-balaka, or “anti-machete” in the local Sango dialect, have used her promotion as a prompt for retaliatory attacks against the Séléka and Muslim civilians.

French photojournalist William Daniels was recently on assignment for TIME and captured a snapshot of the current state of play. He said the strife in Bangui, where the carnage he photographed in December led to louder calls for humanitarian aid and an influx of French and African peacekeepers, appears a bit more localized. Some neighborhoods look normal and others, entirely empty, have been looted or burned. The main displacement camp at the capital’s M’Poko International Airport houses more than 100,000 people.

In the country’s north and west, where the foreign peacekeepers are trying to fan out with inconsistent or inconsequential success, the situation grows dire.

Chadians living in the country who can’t safely trek to the border are taking flights from Bangui’s airport. Some of Chad’s peacekeepers reportedly participated in the Séléka’s deadly raids. Daniels went to Boyélé, halfway between Bossangoa and Bouar, where he said all the houses were burned but the school was open. In Boali, he met a priest who chose to harbor hundreds of Muslims in his church guarded by African peacekeepers. Anti-balaka, who have threatened the priest, are looking for revenge.

Their weaponry is makeshift compared to that of the foreign forces, whose absence in certain areas has afforded the Christian militias a freedom similar to what Séléka earlier enjoyed. “We don’t want to attack the Muslim civilians, we just want to attack the Séléka,” one fighter told Daniels, adding that he thought all Muslims were Séléka.

Daniels went back to Central African Republic to bear witness to a conflict long-ignored, and plans to return after this trip. He understands the risk but recognizes the importance that the public and decision-makers see what he sees, so they can be moved to act—or at least care.


William Daniels is a photographer represented by Panos Pictures. Daniels previously wrote for LightBox about his escape from Syria.

Andrew Katz is a reporter with TIME covering international affairs. Follow him on Twitter @katz.


TIME olympics

RECAP: Sochi’s Opening Ceremony

2014 Winter Olympic Games - Opening Ceremony
Performers with balloons representing St. Basil's cathedral. Clive Mason / Getty Images

Three-hour opening ceremony ended with the lighting of the cauldron

The Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympics concluded in Sochi, Russia with a vivid display of fireworks and two legendary Russian ex-Olympians lighting the cauldron. The spectacle may not remove the problems that clouded the build-up to the tournament: political controversies, terrorism fears and concerns over the venue’s preparedness remain. The Russians so far have responded with glum defiance; others still question the morality of holding the Games at this Black Sea resort. But that all now takes a backseat as the Games begin. Below is TIME’s live coverage of the glittering event.


1:55 p.m. | The cauldron at Sochi has been lit.

Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony

Darron Cummings / AP

The Olympic Cauldron is lit during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, on Feb. 7.


1:54 p.m. | The other ex-Olympian who lit the flame was Vladislav Tretiak, the legendary goaltender for the Soviet Union who is considered perhaps the best ever to play his position. He never played in the NHL, but did have an unfortunate turn in the famous “Miracle on Ice” hockey game.


1:52 p.m.


1:51 p.m.


1:42 p.m.

Actors perform "Swan Lake" during the opening ceremony.

David J. Phillip / AP

Actors perform “Swan Lake” during the opening ceremony.


1:37 p.m.


1:29 p.m. | Russian President Vladimir Putin: briefly opens the Winter Olympics: “I pronounce these Games open.”


1:26 p.m. | Yep, that’s Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s Prime Minister, sleeping during the Opening Ceremony:


1:17 p.m.

Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony

Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Artists perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, on Feb. 7, 2014.


1:14 p.m.

TIME’s correspondent in Sochi sums up the historical gloss we just watched at the Opening Ceremony:


1:12 p.m.

Opening Ceremony

HOW HWEE YOUNG / EPA

Lubov, the so-called ‘Hero Girl,’ is lifted up on strings at the start of the Opening Ceremony.

Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony

Mark Humphrey / AP

Artists perform during the opening ceremony.


1:08 p.m.


1:06 p.m.


1:02 p.m.


12:59 p.m.


12:58 p.m.

Performers are seen during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics

Jim Young / Reuters

Performers are seen during the opening ceremony.


12:57 p.m.


12:51 p.m.


12:50 p.m. | Reports have surfaced that a flight from Ukraine bound for Istanbul was grounded and searched by Turkish security forces after a passenger claimed a bomb was aboard the aircraft. The alleged bomber reportedly tried to divert the flight to Sochi.


12:47 p.m.


12:43 p.m. | So far in Sochi’s grand-narration of Russian history, we’ve seen flying horses, ancient Greeks and Vikings. But no mention yet of the Circassians— the people indigenous to Sochi forced into exile in the 19th century. — Ishaan Tharoor

Long before the punk-rock group Pussy Riot or global gay-rights activists sought a boycott of the Olympics, a forgotten community clamored loudly against the events in Sochi. The Circassians, whose history of dispossession and exile Umarov opportunistically invoked, are a scattered, largely Muslim people native to the Caucasus, now found mostly outside of Russia in Turkey and parts of the Middle East. Their original homeland stretches from the eastern rim of the Black Sea — where Sochi sits — to the rugged western highlands of the Caucasus, but few of its indigenous inhabitants remain there.


12:40 p.m.


12:38 p.m.

Sochi Olympics Opening Ceremony

David J. Phillip / AP

The Olympic mascots are seen during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, on Feb. 7, 2014.


12:34 p.m. | A video montage charting Russia’s origins and epic history just ended. It’s followed by imagery of the symbolic Russian troika, a three horse-drawn chariot:


12:29 p.m.


12:25 p.m.


12:24 p.m. | Russian pop duo t.A.T.u. just played Team Russia into the procession, which may seem like an odd choice: the two found success in the early 2000s with the single ‘All the Things She Said,’ the video of which showed the girls wearing school uniforms and kissing in the rain.


12:23 p.m.


12:22 p.m. | Not so ‘Cool Runnings': The Jamaican bobsled team just marched. They had to raise money on the Internet to make it to Sochi.


12:19 p.m. | An overhead shot of Team America marching in the procession:

Athletes from the United States wave to spectators as they arrive.

Robert F. Bukaty / AP

Athletes from the United States wave to spectators as they arrive.


12:16 p.m. Team Ukraine is marching in Fischt Stadium. The two countries have seen closer ties since Ukraine’s President snubbed a trade and association deal with the European Union in November to instead pivot toward Russia. Since then, violent clashes have rocked the capital Kiev.


12:14 p.m. | The Boston Bruins’ giant defenseman Zdeno Chara led out Team Slovakia:


12:09 p.m. | The American Olympians have arrived and are marching:

[https://twitter.com/Sochi2014/status/431837563108986880]


12:08 p.m.


12:06 p.m. | Here’s the reason why India’s three contestants marched under the Olympic flag and not that of their nation:

The IOC gave India until February 7 to vote in new, untainted leadership, but India’s Olympic Association scheduled a vote on February 9, two days after the opening ceremony. As a result, India’s athletes will have to parade as “independents” under a generic Olympic flag.


12:02 p.m.


11:59 a.m. | Interesting seating arrangement!


11:56 a.m. | If you’re tracking the politics of the ceremony so far, TIME counts a very robust Sochi cheer for Venezuela, whose government enjoys thumbing its nose at the U.S. Deathly silence when the Georgian team marched. Next door to Sochi, Georgia fought a war with Russia half a decade ago and riles the leadership in Moscow. — Ishaan Tharoor


11:55 a.m.


11:52 a.m.


11:49 a.m. | A member of Austria’s Olympic team fell during the procession

OLY-2014-OPENING-CEREMONY-DELEGATION

ANDREJ ISAKOVIC / AFP / Getty Images

A member of Austria’s delegation lies on the ground after falling during the Opening Ceremony on Feb. 7, 2014 in Sochi.


11:42 a.m.


11:41 a.m.


11:40 a.m.

The athletes of each nation are marching out now in procession. TIME’s Simon Shuster describes the scene: “The athletes start marching out onto the stage as a large ring of people in what look to be marshmallow suits clap and do a little two-step dance, swaying back and forth. Not quite the Beijing opening ceremony, but at least they are more or less synchronized. Which is cool.”


11:25 a.m. | Wardrobe malfunction?


11:23 a.m. | We’re being taken on a tour of Russia’s time zones. Does it really need nine of them? We looked at the issue last month:

In 2010, Moscow trimmed the number of zones down to nine (some experts think just four would suffice), but considerable quirks remain: for example, though Russia’s Asiatic port of Vladivostok sits clearly to the west of Japan, the time there is two hours ahead of Tokyo.


11:20 a.m. | Turkish Olympians pose with an official Sochi mascot

Opening Ceremony !!!Olympics 2014 Sochi

A photo posted by Ekaterina Ryazanova (@ekaterinaryazanova) on


11:05 a.m.


11:00 a.m. | The Opening Ceremony has begun.

OLY-2014-OPENING-CEREMONY

Damien Meyer / AFP / Getty Images

A military choir performs during the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi Winter Olympics at the Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, Russia, on Feb. 7.


One hour before the Opening Ceremony began, TIME’s Simon Shuster recounted the lead-up. Follow him on Twitter @shustry for more:

19:15 One hour to go till the opening ceremony. The announcer calls in the hosts into the stadium, Ivan Urgant and Yana Churikova, who ride out, somewhat anticlimactically, in a golf cart. No disco lights or anything.

Churikova goes all in: “Welcome to the center of the universe!” I guess Russia was never really known for modesty.

19:17: They hop back into their golf cart and ride back off stage. A Russian pop song comes on.

19:20 The golf cart’s back, running laps around the stage with a news camera in toe. Apropos of nothing, a recording starts to play of the words “Welcome to Sochi” in about a dozen different languages. (Or so I assume from the languages I understand.)

Just a few minutes in, and Urgant attempts his first joke. “The people of Sochi are really unique,” he says. “They speak all the languages of the world. But only two phrases. “Welcome,” and, “Sorry, I don’t have any change.” Falls a bit flat. In the English translation, not clear if he’s talking about panhandlers or check-out clerks at the liquor store.

19:24. So then. Nothing to kill an awkward moment like a Queen song, especially one song with a Russian accent. “We are the Champions!”

19:27 Urgant: “Now we’re going to reveal a secret of the opening ceremony. The hero is a little girl, and her name is Love.”

Wait, it gets cheesier.

“I’m overflowing with love right now,” Urgant blubbers. “Can I hug you?” Yana accepts. “Cameraman, can I hug you?” The cameraman accepts.

Then it gets weird.

You know the kissing game they do at the ballpark with the jumbotron? Right. Usually they only zoom in on couples in the stands. Not in Russia.

“Hugs!” Urgant shouts. “Hug everyone!” The camera pans around to the press box. Confusion descends. “Everyone hug your neighbor! You, lonely cameraman, yes, you! Hug the person next to you!” The poor guy concedes.

19:30 Rough transition back to song. Churikova: “There is a Russian tradition that when you hear this song you have to hug someone.” I grew up in Russia and I’m pretty sure there is no such tradition. Anyway, the song was nice.

19:36. Cue the golf cart. Urgant: “Now let me tell you how everyone can become a part of these Games.” Well, at least everyone in the stadium. Urgant pulls a trick from Opera Winfrey’s hat. Everyone is told to reach under their seat and get a light-emitting medal to put around their necks. They all start flickering the Russian tricolor, which looks pretty awesome. For some reason, Churikova feels the need to add, “Don’t worry [the medals] are absolutely harmless for your health.”

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