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Afghan woman voluntarily nurses babies of mothers slain in Kabul maternity ward carnage

Attacks on healthcare facilities and workers have risen in recent years [AFP/Getty]

Date of publication: 19 May, 2020

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Firooza Omar volunteered to nurse the newborn babies of mothers who were murdered in a horrific attack on a maternity ward.
A mother in Afghanistan has volunteered to nurse the babies of women slain in a shocking attack on a maternity ward in the capital last week.

Firooza Omar, 27, became a mother just four months ago herself. 

After extremist militants stormed the maternity ward of Kabul's Dasht-e-Barchi hospital, killing 24 people, Omar volunteered to help in a way only a new mother can - by breastfeeding the newborns of women killed or injured in the horrific attack.

"I was breastfeeding my own child and I got emotional. I could see the suffering of these other babies," Omar told the BBC.

The psychiatrist traveled to the nearby Ataturk Children's Hospital, where 100 mothers and babies rescued from the attack were brought.

"When I went to the hospital, I saw about 20 babies," she said. "Some of them were injured."

While medical staff had been able to feed some of the newborns with powdered milk, others were refusing to drink.

On her first night at the hospital, Omar fed four babies. Since then, she has nursed her son at home while also traveling to the hospital to feed the newborns.

"It had a calming effect on me. I was happy I could help them," she said.

Omar wrote on social media to raise awareness of the situation, helping to raise money to buy powdered milk and diapers for some of the children. Other women also came forward to help nurse the babies, she said.

Tuesday's horrific attack has been blamed on the Islamic State extremist group by the United States. Initially the Taliban was suspected to have perpetrated the attack but the group has since denied responsibility.

The hospital targeted by militants is located in the west of the city, home to the capital's minority Shia Hazara community - a frequent target of extremists from the Islamic State group.

The maternity services at the hospital are supported by humanitarian organisation Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

The carnage killed 24 people, including two newborn babies,
and has been condemned as a "war crime" by human rights organisations.

Deliberate attacks on health care in Afghanistan have increased sharply since 2017.

Insurgents, including both affiliates of IS and the Taliban, have been responsible for many of these incidents, although the Afghan national security forces have also raided clinics, killing and assaulting medical workers and patients.

In March 2017, IS gunmen disguised as doctors stormed a Kabul hospital, killing at least 49 people and injuring dozens more.

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