Health

Afghan authorities reopen maternity ward targeted in deadly attack in May

AFP

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Acting Health Minister Ahmad Jawad Osmani (2nd left) visits maternity rooms during the inauguration reopening ceremony of a medical ward at a Doctors without Borders (MSF) hospital July 1 in Kabul. The hospital's maternity ward was targeted by gunmen in a brutal attack in May. [AFP]

KABUL -- Afghan authorities officially reopened a Kabul hospital and its maternity ward on Wednesday (July 1), weeks after the facility was badly damaged by rampaging gunmen who killed 25 Afghans, including new mothers.

Three armed men stormed the Dasht-e-Barchi hospital in west Kabul on May 12 in a brazen attack that triggered international outrage and horrified a nation already torn by decades of war.

The gunmen largely focused on the maternity ward, which at the time was run by international charity Doctors without Borders (MSF), and the group has said the assailants "systematically" killed 16 mothers during the hours-long assault.

MSF in June pulled out of the hospital over security fears, with authorities still not sure who committed the massacre.

"Today, with the help of our colleagues in the Ministry of Public Health and co-operation from MSF, we have managed to put into operation this hospital using our existing resources," acting Health Minister Ahmad Jawad Osmani said at the reopening ceremony.

About 40 doctors, nurses, midwives and health workers from other hospitals were deployed to Dasht-e-Barchi to provide patient services, said Osmani.

The maternity ward resumed operations starting July 1 with some equipment for the ward provided by MSF, said hospital director Atiqullah Qati.

No group has claimed responsibility, but President Ashraf Ghani blamed the Taliban and the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) extremist group.

The hospital is in an impoverished neighbourhood dominated by the minority Shia Hazara community that in the past has suffered attacks by militants from both groups.

MSF said the facility was one of its biggest projects worldwide and oversaw almost 16,000 deliveries last year.

More than 70 workers and patients admitted into MSF healthcare programmes have been killed in Afghanistan since 2004.

Fourteen health workers have been killed in "terrorist attacks" on Afghan health centres over the past six months, said Osmani.

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They have done a very good work. The enemy should know that how much they destroy public utility facilities, we will build them again. The enemy must know that they cannot weaken the determination of our people by carrying out cowardly attacks. Afghanistan will move forward and will never go back. One day we will build this country and we will bring security to this country if God is willing.

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There are problems in the sector of obstetrics and gynecology throughout Afghanistan. The government should establish more obstetrics and gynecology centers in the country to solve the problems of the people in this regard.

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