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Friday, 28 December, 2001, 18:09 GMT
Equine aid agency's war effort
Clinic set up by Brooke's mobile team
Brooke's clinic in Pajiaggi near Peshawar
By News Online's Ceri Jackson

Among the myriad relief agencies operating on the borders of Afghanistan, a comparatively small British charity is focusing its efforts on some of the forgotten victims of conflict.

Its dedicated team of workers are not striving to assist with humanitarian relief but with something also of great importance to most Afghan refugees.

Injured refugee's horse in Pakistan
Many animals are treated for infected back wounds

Since October, the Brooke Hospital for Animals has been operating field and mobile clinics in and around refugee camps in Peshawar and Quetta, where veterinary workers continue to run emergency clinics to attend to some of the most appalling injuries to horses and donkeys.

Having trekked across the mountainous pass for up to 40 days, most of the animals are skeletal, undernourished and nursing appalling blisters where the meagre belongings refugees rescued from their homes have been bound to their aching backs.

As American warplanes continue to seek out the remnants of the Taleban government, some might dismiss such concern as sentimental and unnecessary.

Without help, I am certain my horses would have died which would leave my family with nothing

Afghan refugee Lal Muhammed
But to a nation of people dependent on horses, mules and donkeys as their only means of income and transport, the well-being of their animals is imperative - no horse, no work.

Refugee Lal Muhammed said it took him six days to reach Peshawar from his hometown.

"By the time I arrived my animals were near to death," he explained.

"I was told of a free service being provided for sick and injured animals to took my horses.

"Without that help, I am certain my horses would have died which would leave my family with nothing."

The Brooke Hospital for Animals was founded in 1934 in Cairo, Egypt, by Englishwoman Dorothy Brookes.

Brooke's vet offering medical advice
A Brooke's vet shows a refugee how to treat a wound

The charity began as the Hospital for Old War Horses to help thousands of cherished hunters and pets requisitioned by the army from stables and green fields all over the UK to fight the in the Near East or Palestine campaign.

Mrs Brooke - based in Cairo with her husband Brigadier Geoffrey Brooke - was horrified to discover that, at the end of the war, the once proud cavalry stock were abandoned.

Old, decrepit and wounded from the battlefield they were handed over to gharry drivers into a daily grind of poverty and suffering.

She instantly wrote to the Daily Telegraph in London, suggesting a memorial in honour of the horses who had saved countless soldiers' lives.

Dorothy Brooke
Memorial Hospital: Dorothy Brooke

Donations poured in and the first Brooke hospital was built and as many of the most injured war hoses were rescued, given a few days food and comfort before being put down.

Nearly 60 years later, the London-based charity - which operates hospitals in Egypt, Pakistan, India and Jordon - has found itself concentrating efforts once more on the plight of war horses.

As soon as refugees began arriving in Pakistan, mobile and field clinics such as the one headed by Dr Shahabat Khan in the Peshawar area, were set up.

"The mobile clinics are swamped with work," he said.

"Assured of free treatment and some rations, the influx of refugees mounts and so too does the work for the Brooke.

Abandoned war horses in 1930s Cairo
Some of the first war horses helped by Brooke's

"The clinic sometimes finds itself treating 120 horses and donkeys a day."

The charity is solely reliant on donations and with their workload in Pakistan having increased six-fold, appeals secretary Richard Searight said they are in desperate need for help.

"The animals we are treating are absolutely critical to these people's survival," he said.

"They having nothing but their horse to rely on and if you take that away, they'll be left with nothing at all.

"In that respect, this is one of the most important ways of helping the people who have become the victims of this war."

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