By: The Kabul Times
KABUL: The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Wednesday that the attacks against health care facilities threaten to reduce or prevent access to health services for millions of Afghans who need it more than ever with the outbreak of COVID-19.
“The recent trajectory in Afghanistan is of great concern. After the hope brought by a relative reduction in hostilities in February and March, we again see more violence. Civilian casualties are on the rise while the country is battling against COVID-19,” said Juan Pedro Schaerer, the head of the ICRC delegation in Afghanistan.
Attacks against health staff or health facilities, such as the deadly assault in May against the MSF-supported maternity hospital in Kabul, only exacerbate the situation, said the ICRC.
“COVID-19 has challenged the world’s most advanced nations. A country where gunmen attack a hospital stands no chance at providing quality care. We see it in health facilities in conflict-affected areas and in prisons, where people have already limited access to health care,” Schaerer said.
The fight against COVID-19 needs commitments from all parties to the conflict.
ICRC calls for the protection of medical missions and for the strengthening of healthcare systems in those places, like detention facilities, where such links are the weakest.
“We battle a worldwide enemy and need a country-wide agreement on how to address COVID-19,” Scharer said. “As a start, full respect of international humanitarian law by all parties, without exception, is needed to protect civilians in Afghanistan.”
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in a statement on Tuesday announced that it had decided to end activities and withdraw from Dasht-e-Barchi maternity hospital in Kabul following the attack on the hospital on May 12.
“Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has announced our decision to end activities and withdraw from Dasht-e-Barchi in Kabul, Afghanistan, following the brutal attack on our maternity wing on May 12, in which 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,” said MSF.
According to the statement: “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 the deliberate targets of the attack, and that similar attacks may occur in the future.”
In reaction to the MSF’s decisions, doctors at Dasht-e-Barchi maternity hospital have said that the move will seriously impact the health delivery services at the hospital.
Over the past few weeks, local elders in Dahst-e-Barchi held several meetings with MSF to convince the organization to continue its operation in the area.
The elders of Dasht-e-Barchi also called on the Afghan government to share the outcome of their assessment with the MSF officials about the attack.
The attack left 24 people dead, mostly women and children.