Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has announced its decision to end activities and withdraw from Dasht-e-Barchi in Kabul, following the brutal attack on the maternity wing on 12 May, 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.
MSF in a press release said that 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.
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“A month after the horrifying event, we know very little; the attack remains unclaimed. Afghan authorities blamed the Taliban – or Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan – who refuted and condemned the accusation, while representatives of foreign governments publicly pointed their finger at radical groups as perpetrators, namely Islamic State in Khorasan group,” the press release reads.
“We were aware that our presence in Dasht-e-Barchi carried risks, but we just couldn’t believe that someone would take advantage of the absolute vulnerability of women about to give birth to murder them and their babies,” says Thierry Allafort-Duverger, MSF Director General. “But it did happen.”
“Today, we have to accept reality: higher walls and thicker security doors won’t prevent such horrific assaults from happening again,” says Allafort-Duverger. “To remain would mean to factor in such loss of human lives as a parameter of our activity, and this is unthinkable.”
“The end of MSF’s activities in the maternity wing of Dasht-e-Barchi hospital 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,” the press release added.