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Revolting attack on pregnant women and babies

Revolting attack on maternity ward kills pregnant women and babies in Afghanistan

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  • An unknown number of attackers has stormed our maternity ward in Dasht-e-Barchi hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan.
  • Several patients have been killed; at least one MSF staff member is possibly also among the dead. We mourn the loss of all who were killed.
  • We condemn this outrageous attack, this senseless act of cowardly, destructive violence.

Kabul – Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is devastated after yesterday’s sickening attack on pregnant women, mothers and their babies at our maternity ward in Dasht-e-Barchi hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan.

While pregnant women and babies, in one of life’s most vulnerable states, were seeking healthcare, an unknown number of attackers stormed the maternity ward through a series of explosions and gunfire, lasting for hours.

MSF condemns this senseless act of cowardly violence, which cost the lives of many people, and which has deprived women and children in Kabul of a fundamental healthcare service, in a context where access to essential care is already limited. The maternity ward is located in an area of western Kabul with a population of more than 1.5 million people.

Afghanistan, May 2020.
An unknown number of assailants stormed the maternity wing of Dasht-e-Barchi hospital in Kabul on Tuesday 12 May, at around 10 am local time. They carried out an assault that lasted for approximately four hours. During the attack, 16 mothers were systematically shot dead. An MSF midwife, two children aged 7 and 8, and six other people present at the time of the attack were also killed. Afghanistan, May 2020.

We mourn the loss of several patients and we have indications that at least one Afghan colleague was also killed. For now, with still so much uncertainty, every effort is being made by our medical team to follow up on the new-borns in the maternity ward, to ensure the best possible care to our patients and to those injured, to provide psychological care to affected staff, and to provide every necessary support to those bereaved.

While fighting was ongoing, one woman gave birth to her baby, and both are doing well.

Our hospital staff – midwives, doctors, cleaners, nurses, cooks, watchmen – and administrative staff provide invaluable services to women in need of maternal care, especially for those with complicated deliveries.

Revolting attack on pregnant women and babies
The scene in the newborn nursery in the maternity ward of Dasht-e-Barchi hospital, after a horrendous attack. Afghanistan, 13 May 2020.

For the time being, medical activities in the maternity ward of Dasht-e-Barchi hospital are suspended, but not closed. Patients were evacuated to surrounding hospitals and staff were brought to safety.

More than ever, we stand in solidarity with the Afghan people.

MSF opened the 55-bed maternity in Dasht-e-Barchi hospital in 2014. Since the beginning of this  year, 5,401 babies were delivered at the maternity ward, and 524 babies had received treatment in the newborn unit and kangaroo mother-care unit for critical care.

MSF first started working in Afghanistan in 1980, but was absent from the country between 2004 and 2009 after the killing of five staff in Badghis province. In 2019, MSF had seven projects in six provinces of the country and undertook more than 100,000 outpatient consultations, assisted more than 60,000 deliveries and performed almost 10,000 surgical interventions. For our work in Afghanistan, MSF does not accept funding from any government. Instead, the organisation relies entirely on donations from the public.

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