© Sandra Calligaro/MSF
MSF has been supporting the Dasht-e-Barchi maternity hospital for six years. Photo taken in December 2019.
27 May 20
Vickie HawkinsVickie HawkinsBritishExecutive DirectorUnited Kingdom

Kabul hospital attack: "I will choose to remember happier times"

"At the heart of MSF is our work in places that suffer from conflict and insecurity.  Whilst fraught with challenges, we have decades of experience of operating in such environments, bringing healthcare to communities that are truly in need.

However, Tuesday 12 May brought with it the most horrendous news: a violent attack on our maternity ward at Dasht-e-Barchi hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan.

As the story made its way around the world, we grappled with a chaotic aftermath. In many ways, what happened is beyond words.

We now know that 24 people were killed – including mothers, children and one of our midwives – while a further 20 people were wounded. We also know that this was a direct targeting of the maternity unit. A place that is usually filled with the hope and joy that comes with new life, and humanity.

"It felt like many mothers were there not just for a medical consultation but for the female companionship that this building represented"

Vickie HawkinsMSF UK Exective Director

What we still don't know is who carried out this attack and why they did it. Perhaps we will never begin to understand that.

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I have worked in Afghanistan five times with MSF. I have visited Dasht-e-Barchi hospital myself and have one resounding memory, from the outpatient waiting room.

It was packed and there were huge numbers of women sitting lined-up on benches, their burkas thrown back on their heads. It was extremely loud, full of talking and laughing.

It felt like many mothers were there not just for a medical consultation but for the female companionship that this building represented.

"On 12 May, this sanctuary was horribly violated. But, I will remember Dasht-e-Barchi for its more inspiring image."

Vickie HawkinsMSF UK Executive Director

Sadly, Afghanistan remains one of the most dangerous places in the world to give birth. For International Women's Day back in 2017, some of our maternity staff – including from Dasht-e-Barchi – came together to highlight the challenges mothers face, and the work we do to help them deliver their children safely.

But, for the past six years, the 55-bed maternity unit at Dasht-e-Barchi has been a beacon, with staff providing invaluable services to women in need of maternal care.

Since the beginning of this year alone, 5,401 babies have been brought into the world at this incredible hospital.

A mother who recently gave birth to twins at Dasht-e-Barchi Hospital talks with an MSF team member

On 12 May, this sanctuary was horribly violated. But, I will remember Dasht-e-Barchi for its more inspiring image.

I will carry it in my head, along with all that it represented for the women and newborns that passed through its doors over the years. I chose the beautiful photo above to show happier times here.

For now, we mourn the loss of our patients and colleague, and I want to thank you for the kind messages that many of you have shared on social media.

But, even as the COVID-19 pandemic puts pressure on healthcare services worldwide, this tragic event strengthens our commitment.

With your support, we remain as unwavering as ever in delivering medical aid wherever it is needed most."

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