Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) on Monday in a press release officially announced that they were ending their activities in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood in western Kabul where they had run a maternity ward providing care to pregnant mothers and their infants. In 2019 the program saw the delivery of over 16,000 babies, and it was one of MSF's largest international programs, according to the statement.
MSF said that the decision was made after the attack on the maternity ward on May 12 in which 24 were killed and 16 others were wounded.
“Following the attack on the maternity wing of Dasht-e-Barchi hospital in mid-May, MSF announces their withdrawal and ended activities at the hospital,” read the statement.
According to MSF, while no information has emerged about the perpetrators or motive of the assault, the mothers, babies and health staff were the deliberate targets of the attack, and so the organization has determined that similar attacks could occur in the future.
“While we are looking at ways to provide support, the attack and our withdrawal leaves women in the area without comprehensive maternity care services,” MSF said in the statement.
MSF said that during the attack 16 mothers were "systematically shot dead" as well as an MSF midwife, two children aged 7 and 8, and six other people present.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack and the Taliban denied involvement.
Thierry Allafort-Duverger, MSF's director general, said that the organization never expected such an attack against women about to give birth.
“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.”
MSF said that the decision has been shared with their staff, the national health authorities and other partners.
Despite the decision to stop activities in the hospital in the west of Kabul but yet MSF said we are looking into ways to support local initiatives aimed at improving access to healthcare.
“By pushing us to close our activity in the hospital, the assailants have also left women and babies without access to essential medical care, in a country where maternal and neo-natal mortality remain high,” read the MSF statement.
MSF said their program had been operating in Dasht-e-Barchi in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health since November 2014, providing free-of-charge maternity and neonatal care in one of the most densely populated areas of Kabul.
According to the MSF, over the past 16 years 70 MSF staff and patients in MSF healthcare programs have been killed in Afghanistan.
MSF continues to run medical programs in the Afghan provinces of Helmand, Herat, Kandahar, Khost and Kunduz, with activities covering a broad range of health issues. MSF first started working in the country in 1980.