MSF calls upon warring parties to spare Afghan civilians

Afghanistan/Pakistan, December 5, 2001 - Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has transported many casualties from the bombing campaign on Tora Bora to the Jalalabad hospital in Afghanistan. Since December 1, aid workers have carried more than 80 dead and 50 wounded people in their ambulances, including many women and children. The casualties come from Tora Bora and the nearby villages of Pachir, Wazir and Agam. As security has greatly deteriorated in Jalalabad, international MSF workers evacuated to Peshawar, Pakistan this morning. MSF's Afghan staff continue ambulance services. MSF has also strengthened the capacity of Koghiani district hospital close to the affected area, by donating medical supplies, particularly for surgical use. Immediately after the bombing started and reports of the civilian casualties came in, MSF set up an ambulance service with three cars. On the first day, 72 dead and 15 wounded were transported. During the following two days, another 12 dead and 35 wounded were transported. This does not account for the unknown number of deaths that were left behind in bombed villages. Among the casualties was a family in which the father was killed, the mother critically injured and the four children wounded. There was also a six-year-old boy who lost one eye, had to undergo partial amputation of one arm, as well as a full amputation of his other arm and one of his legs. Meanwhile, the displaced population in Hesarshari camp, near Jalalabad, has swelled from 500 families on the first of December to about 2,000 families yesterday. The bombings have caused forest fires around Tora Bora that cannot be controlled. These events are all the more disturbing as the leaders of the 'War Against Terrorism' confirm that the conflict is being waged in the name of civilization and respect for humanitarian values. The US-led coalition has the responsibility to respect International humanitarian law which calls on proportionality in the use of force. MSF increasingly sees evidence of an unacceptably high number of Afghan civilian casualties from the military operations. MSF calls upon the parties involved to minimize the consequences of the ongoing conflict for the civilian population. MSF has some 60 international aid workers in addition to 400 local Afghan staff inside Afghanistan. They work from 6 cities: Herat, Mazar-e-Sharif, Taloqan, Faizabad, Kabul and Jalalabad.