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May 12 attack: MSF withdraws from Dasht-e-Barchi Maternity Ward

May 12 attack: MSF withdraws from Dasht-e-Barchi Maternity Ward

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15 Jun 2020 - 17:14
May 12 attack: MSF withdraws from Dasht-e-Barchi Maternity Ward
author avatar
15 Jun 2020 - 17:14

KABUL (Pajhwok): Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has ended activities and withdrew from Dasht-e-Barchi in Kabul, following the brutal attack of 12 May, according to a statement on Monday.

Sixteen mothers were systematically shot dead alongside a midwife working for the organisation, two children aged 7 and 8 and six other people present at the time of the attack.

The decision comes with the understanding that while no information has emerged about the perpetrators or motive of the assault; mothers, babies and health staff were its deliberate target and similar attacks may repeat in the future, the statement says.

“A month after the attack that has left all of us in shock, we know very little: this attack remains unclaimed, Afghan authorities blamed the Taliban– who refuted and condemned the accusation while representatives of foreign governments publicly pointed their finger at radical groups as perpetrators, such as Islamic State in Khorasan group.”

“While we don’t know who was responsible, we know enough to realise that the maternity was directly targeted by an act of depraved/senseless violence aimed to kill and terrorise its patients, its health workers and our humanitarian activity. This attack cannot be left behind as a tragic, isolated incident: the Hazara population living in the area has been subject to a pattern of repeated attacks, as have various aid organisations.”

“We were aware that we were taking risks with our presence in Dasht-e-Barchi, but we just couldn’t believe that someone would take advantage of the absolute vulnerability of women about to give birth to exterminate them and their babies” says Thierry Allafort-Duverger, Director General of the international humanitarian organisation. “But it did happen. Today, we have to accept reality: higher walls and thicker security doors won’t prevent such unconscionable assaults from happening again. To remain would mean to factor such loss of human lives as a parameter of our activity and this is unconceivable.”

The decision has been communicated to our staff, the national health authorities and other partners. Our concern is to continue to provide the necessary support to our staff, including psychological assistance. MSF is also looking into ways to provide an appropriate support to the families of the patients killed in the maternity.

While the security conditions have imposed MSF’s withdrawal from Dasht-e-Barchi, the organisation is going to looking into ways to support local initiatives aimed at improving access to health care.

The end of MSF’s activities in the Dasht-e-Barchi maternity ward is a necessary but painful decision, fraught with consequences for more than one million people who live in the area. Most of them are from the Hazara community, a historically marginalised and poor population, many of whom were displaced by decades of conflict.

With almost 16,000 deliveries in 2019, the Dasht-e-Barchi maternity ward was one of MSF’s biggest such projects worldwide. By forcing the closing of the MSF activity in the hospital, the assailants have not only taken the lives of people during the attack, they have also left women and babies without access to essential medical care in a country where maternal and neo-natal mortality remain high.

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