An unknown number of assailants stormed a maternity ward in Kabul, Afghanistan on Tuesday unleashing gunshots and explosions in an hours-long deadly attack.
Newborn babies, their mothers, pregnant women and nurses are among the 24 people that were killed at Dasht-e-Barchi hospital, in a maternity ward run by aid group Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders. Several others were injured in the harrowing attack.
The Dasht-e-Barchi Hospital in Kabul, where @MSF runs the maternity, was attacked. Explosions and gunfire were reported. Efforts are still on-going to evacuate patients and staff. More information will follow.— MSF Afghanistan (@MSF_Afghanistan) May 12, 2020
According to Médecins Sans Frontières, one woman gave birth while the attack was ongoing. She and her baby survived and are healthy. Other patients, including many infants and staff were evacuated by Afghan special forces to surrounding hospitals.
The unconscionable #war #crimes in #Afghanistan today, targeting a maternity hospital and a funeral, must awaken the world to the horrors civilians continue to face. There must be accountability for these grave crimes, and civilians must be protected. https://t.co/Xrjzc1uQDg— Amnesty International South Asia (@amnestysasia) May 12, 2020
It is unclear why the maternity ward in Dasht-e-Barchi hospital was targeted.
“We mourn the loss of several patients, and we have indications that at least one colleague was also killed,” Médecins Sans Frontières said in a statement.
“For now, with so much uncertainty, every effort is being made by our medical team to follow up on the newborns in the maternity hospital to ensure the best possible care for our patients and for those injured, to provide psychological care to affected staff, and to provide necessary support to those bereaved.”
These newborns,among d first voices they heard, on d first day of their lives, was the sounds of gunfire, & smell of burn & smoke, & among their first experiences, being targeted in a war they & their mothers had no part in.Will their lives, like ours, continue 2 b shaped by war? https://t.co/dKoHtRpTNg— Shaharzad Akbar (@ShaharzadAkbar) May 12, 2020
The Médecins Sans Frontières maternity hospital is located in an area of western Kabul with a population of more than 1.5 million people. Medical activities in the maternity ward are currently suspended, leaving people in the region with fewer options for maternity care.
“Even in a country which has seen the worst of the worst, this savage attack on newborn babies and their mothers has shocked, and shaken fragile hope this would be the year Afghanistan would finally start to turn towards peace,” BBC’s Chief International Correspondent Lyn Doucet wrote.
“Images of special forces in bulky body armour, carrying infants to safety, will remain long in the memory of those who have repeatedly called for a ceasefire.”
Médecins Sans Frontières opened the 55-bed maternity ward in 2014. This year, 5,401 babies have been delivered there, while 524 babies have been treated in the newborn unit and kangaroo mother-care unit for critical care.