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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

Afghan healthcare deliberately targeted, says UN

The attacks come at a time when Afghanistan is grappling with the coronavirus epidemic [Getty]

Date of publication: 21 June, 2020

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The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said it had registered 12 such acts of violence between March 11 and May 23 against healthcare facilities and workers.
The United Nations on Sunday charged that the Taliban and Afghan security forces had carried out "deliberate" attacks against healthcare workers and facilities at a time when Afghanistan is grappling with the deadly coronavirus epidemic.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said it had registered 12 such acts of violence between March 11 and May 23 against healthcare facilities and workers.

Eight of the attacks were attributed to the Taliban, while Afghan forces were responsible for three.

One attack, the horrifying assault on a Kabul-based maternity hospital on May 12, still remained unclaimed.

"At a time when an urgent humanitarian response was required to protect every life in Afghanistan, both the Taliban and Afghan national security forces carried out deliberate acts of violence that undermined healthcare operations," UNAMA head Deborah Lyons said in a statement.

The assault on the maternity ward of Dasht e-Barchi hospital in Kabul left 25 people dead, including 16 mothers, according to international charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

The group announced last week that it was pulling out of the facility fearing similar attacks in the future.

The UN mission said Afghan forces had carried out an airstrike outside a clinic in the northern province of Kunduz in May targeting a vehicle carrying wounded Taliban fighters.

The airstrike killed several Taliban fighters but also two civilians, it said.

In another incident the UN mission said Afghan soldiers had threatened to shoot doctors at a public hospital in the eastern Nangarhar province when they refused to wash the body of a dead soldier.

In the third incident the UN mission accused troops of looting medical supplies from trucks that were aimed for a clinic in Balkh province. 

The report comes as Afghanistan grapples with surging cases of coronavirus.

It has so far reported 28,833 confirmed cases, with 581 deaths.

"Perpetrating targeted attacks on healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when health resources are already stretched and of critical importance to the civilian population, is particularly reprehensible," said Fiona Frazer, UNAMA Chief of Human Rights.

Overall violence across the country had dropped after the Taliban offered a three-day ceasefire on May 24, but officials now claim that insurgent attacks have increased in recent weeks.

On Sunday, officials said that 42 civilians were killed and 105 wounded in the past week in Taliban attacks.

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