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Barchi residents look back on maternity ward attack, appeal to MSF to return

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(Last Updated On: May 12, 2021)

It has been a year since the deadly attack on the maternity ward in a Dasht-e Barchi hospital in Kabul, a year filled with memories of the horror of the attack where gunmen cold-bloodedly gunned down mothers and mothers-to-be, staff and children in a four-hour siege.

But for the people of Dasht-e-Barchi, the attack at the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) run maternity ward, and the 24 people killed, including mothers and mothers-to-be, will never be forgotten.

For some local residents, MSF’s decision soon after the attack to withdraw from the hospital left them “shocked and hopeless”.

On Tuesday, Dr Isabelle Defourny, MSF director of operations, said: “Some weeks later, we had to make the difficult choice to withdraw from Dasht-e-Barchi. We knew we would leave behind huge needs.

“For many women in the neighbourhood, our maternity ward was a much-needed resource; 16,000 deliveries had taken place there in 2019 alone. But we couldn’t continue our activity after what happened,” Defourny said.

Thanking MSF for their services at the hospital over the years, one resident in the area, Ahmad Tamim, said on Wednesday: “People will never forget MSF ‘s generous service in its Dasht-e Barchi project and as well the tragic closure of the hospital that left everyone shocked, helpless and hopeless.

“All the people wished you would have continued your assistance in their slum and ghetto area after the attack, but unfortunately your abandonment became another sorrow for them,” he said.

For one MSF employee, Sayed Jawed Hashimi, who hid in a safe room during the attack, the scenes will haunt him for years to come.

“The worst memory ever! And the hardest four hours that we spent in the safe room, under shooting, bombing, and the dead bodies (mothers, babies, care takers, our colleague). What we saw after getting out of safe rooms, was like a nightmare, which takes several years to forget,” he told Ariana News.

Another resident of the area Omulbanin Nabizada, said simply to MSF: “Wish you could stay.”

Yet another appealed to them to resume work in their predominantly Shiite Hazara area.

Mystafa Asghari said: “Please resume your activities.”

Asila Mohammad said to Ariana News: “MSF should resume work in Kabul [in Dasht-e-Barchi] in order to save more mothers and children,” while Asadullah Azimi said: “We were victims and we were deprived of your cooperation for a crime others committed.”

Sakina Amiry, an Afghan journalist, stated: “After the terrorist attack the people have been in desperate need of health services. The hundred-bed hospital [which housed MSF’s maternity ward] now limits services,” she said.

“The maternity ward now only handles normal deliveries. MSF doctors please help those who even do not have bread to eat,” she said.

The maternity ward attack was carried out in the same area that was battered on Saturday in a deadly bombing against a girls school that killed at least 87 people, mostly teenage girls.

But, like many attacks, no group has claimed responsibility for this tragedy.

AFP reported Wednesday that few people in the area expect authorities to track down the perpetrators of the latest carnage — or prevent similar massacres in the future.

The Afghan government has continued to blame the Taliban for the maternity ward attack, but interior ministry spokesman Tareq Arian says no arrests were ever made.

The US, however, pinned the blame on the Islamic State group (Daesh).

“No evidence was publicly brought to support those claims,” Defourny told AFP.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Defourny said that while they didn’t think the MSF was specifically targeted, “the first targets of this attack were pregnant women and women in labour in a maternity ward which we ran.”

“We know that the attackers directly headed to the maternity ward and killed the pregnant women and women in labour who were present there. Two children who had come for routine vaccination and another caretaker were also shot dead in the attack. Healthcare staff were also killed and injured,” she said.

“We can’t work in an environment where patients and medical staff are targeted, and where we can’t prevent such a massacre from happening again.

“This attack clearly targeted pregnant women in a maternity ward run by MSF. And the fact-finding exercise confirmed that none of the different parties with whom we have relations in Afghanistan gave us specific alerts on it.

“Our will to continue working in Afghanistan is motivated by the dire medical needs of the Afghan people… but can only continue if minimum conditions of safety are ensured…,” she said.

“When MSF returned to Afghanistan 12 years ago – after we had withdrawn in 2004 following the killing of five of our colleagues – we knew it was one of the most dangerous countries to work in. At that time, our analysis was that it was possible to craft a safe working space for us, by renewing our engagement with all the different parties involved.

“Since then, after the attack on our hospital in Kunduz, and the one on the Dasht-e-Barchi maternity ward, we have to admit that this wasn’t enough. In these two attacks, 66 people were killed – by far the highest number of deaths in our programmes around the world over the last six years.

“Our organisation can’t accept the idea of integrating the loss of our staff or of the patients we treat as part of our work. We maintain our freedom to withdraw and stop our activities when we think that the risk of such severe attacks repeating themselves is too great,” she said.

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Thousands take exams for Turkish-run schools in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: November 26, 2021)

Thousands of Afghan students, including girls under grade 7, took entrance exams on Friday for a Turkish foundation in Kabul that runs some of Afghanistan’s most highly regarded schools.

As many as 3,600 students sat the highly competitive exams for the Afghan-Turk school system, Afghan-Turk School’s officials said.

“We want all girls to be educated. This is our president’s and our government’s wish and that of Afghans,” the Educational Councillor at Kabul’s Turkish Embassy, Changez Idmir, said at a news conference to mark the holding of the entrance tests.

Facing mounting global pressure, the IEA has said they will allow older girls to resume classes once arrangements are made to ensure they can do so in conformity with what the movement considers proper Islamic standards.

Afghan-Turk schools are regarded among the top schools in Afghanistan and admission is highly competitive.

Unofficially, many parts of the country have seen older girls restart classes, while officially the IEA says they are still working on a national system.

Ehsan Khateb, Head of Kabul Education Department, also attended the ceremony and thanked the Turkish government.

Afghan-Turk schools have had to make changes to their curriculum, shutting music, theatre, and dance departments at the request of IEA officials, the head of the Turkish educational foundation, Salleh Saghar, told Reuters.

The foundation respected the rules and culture of the host country, he said.

“Like the music, theatre, and dancing department … based on Taliban (IEA) requests we closed the departments,” he said, and it was for the IEA government to decide if they would reopen.

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Afghan humanitarian crisis, drug trafficking alarm India, Russia, China

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(Last Updated On: November 26, 2021)

The foreign ministers of India, Russia and China expressed concern on Friday at the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and the spread of drug trafficking in the country.

Afghanistan has been plunged into crisis by the abrupt end of billions of dollars in foreign assistance, following the collapse of the Western-backed government and return to power of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) in August.

“Expressing concern over deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, the Ministers called for immediate and unhindered humanitarian assistance to be provided to Afghanistan,” said a joint statement released following a virtual meeting between India’s S Jaishankar, Russia’s Sergey Lavrov and China’s Wang Yi.

The three countries also pledged to do more to combat drug smuggling in the region.

“The spread of illicit drug trafficking in opiates and methamphetamine from Afghanistan and beyond… poses a serious threat to regional security and stability and provides funding for terrorist organizations,” the statement added.

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Kabul hospitals receive more children suffering from malnutrition

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(Last Updated On: November 26, 2021)

Hospitals in Kabul are receiving more child patients suffering from malnutrition, as the humanitarian crisis worsens in the country amid conflicts and economic collapse.

About 20 children, many below five years old, are currently receiving treatment in the Kabul Children’s Hospital, one of the children’s medical centers in the city offering free medical services for Afghan people.

The hospital has opened a special area for the treatment of malnutrition as the number of malnourished child patients keeps increasing.

Three wards are full of children with pale faces and dull eyes. Some of them are relying on oxygen to maintain the faint breath, and others look puffy and swollen as they suffer oedema caused by severe deficiency of protein and other nutriment.

“Most of the malnourished patients here come from the countryside. As it starts to snow and the weather becomes cold, it will be difficult for them to go to the clinic or come here for treatment. The number of malnourished patients is likely to increase,” said Latif Baher, director of the hospital.

In an interview with China Central Television, Latif said the hospital is being expanded to receive more malnourished child patients. A special building will be established to accommodate about 100 malnourished children.

Latif said prolonged conflicts and the poor living environment have resulted in the malnutrition among people.

“Afghans are living in a bad situation. The adults in the family cannot get enough food, and they cannot provide enough nutrition such as protein or carbohydrates to their children,” he said.

Without reliable access to water, food and basic health and nutrition services, Afghan children and their families are bearing the brunt of years of conflict and the current economic crisis, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

The fund reported last month that about 14 million people in Afghanistan are facing acute food insecurity, and an estimated 3.2 million children under the age of five are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition by the end of the year. At least 1 million of these children are at risk of dying due to severe acute malnutrition without immediate treatment.

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