MSF withdraws from Kabul hospital over security concerns

Global medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said that it was withdrawing from a maternity hospital in the Afghan capital that came under a brutal attack in May in which 25 people were killed.

“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,” Efe news quoted MSF as saying in a statemen on Mondayt.

“A month after the horrifying event, we know very little. The attack remains unclaimed,” the statement said.

Three gunmen detonated a bomb and opened fire near the MSF-supported maternity facility located in Kabul’s Dasht-e-Barchi neighbourhood, mainly inhabited by the Hazaras, a minority Shia Muslim community.

Afghan authorities blamed the Taliban for the attack but the militant group refuted the claim.

The US special envoy for Afghan peace Zalmay Khalilzad alleged that the Islamic State terrorgroup was behind the attack since the global militant network was “a threat” to the Afghan people and the world.

The global humanitarian group said it was aware that the presence of its workers 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,” Thierry Allafort-Duverger, MSF Director-General said in the statement.

“Today, we have to accept reality: higher walls and thicker security doors won’t prevent such horrific assaults from happening again.

“To remain would mean to factor in such loss of human lives as a parameter of our activity, and this is unthinkable,” Allafort-Duverger said

The MSF statement said that the end of activities at the medical facility was a “necessary but painful decision, fraught with consequences for more than one million people who live in the area”.

With almost 16,000 deliveries in 2019, the Dasht-e-Barchi maternity wing was one of MSF’s biggest such projects worldwide.

More than 70 MSF staff and patients in MSF healthcare programs have been killed in Afghanistan over the past 16 years, said the statement.