“They came to kill the mothers”

On May 12, armed men stormed an MSF mother’s hospital in Kabul, killing 24 people, including mothers and children. A shocking attack that weakens the health system, strengthens women’s vulnerability and redirects tensions between Afghan forces and the Taliban.

Hajar Sarweri was about to give birth to his second child, Tuesday, May 12, at about 10 am, when several armed men entered the work room of the maternity unit of the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), at Dasht-e-Barchi Hospital in Kabul. They shot her twice in the stomach and killed her instantly, as did her unborn baby.

Details come from Washington Post. His journalists covered the funeral of Hajar Sarweri, which took place the next day, as is tradition, in Islam. “Her family buried her on the top of a hill, under a cloudy sky, on the outskirts of the Afghan capital. The child was still in her womb,” the article read.

“It was methodical

In this “abject attack,” as she calls it MSFA total of 24 people were killed and at least 20 were injured by these armed individuals – of whom the number remains uncertain. They stormed for more than four hours, “with gunshots and explosive devices,” the NGO said.

“They went into the maternity rooms and shot the women lying in their beds. It was methodical. The walls were free of bullet holes, there was blood on the floor in the rooms, vehicles burnt and broken windows,” said Frédéric Bonnot, director of the MSF program in Afghanistan, in one communicated May 14.

Among the dead were eleven women, three of whom were in a childbirth room, about to give birth to their children. There are also two young boys and one Afghan midwife who worked with MSF. Two infants were injured, including one shot in the leg. Among the survivors, a woman and her children, born during the attack. “Mom and baby are fine,” says MSF.

“A Goal Symbol”

In a crisis cell two days after the tragedy, MSF was still trying on Thursday to understand what was happening at her mother’s hospital in Kabul. Infants who lost their mothers in the attack were placed with their relatives on Wednesday at a hospital in the western city. But NGOs are still trying to reunite families and track patients and staff. “We are still in an emergency,” explains France 24, Press Relations Manager, Assia Shihab.

The medical operation at Dasht-e-Barchi’s mother hospital is still interrupted. With a capacity of 55 beds, the parent hospital, which was targeted on May 12, has given birth to almost 5,500 children since it opened in 2014 in this poor district in western Kabul and has treated more than 500 infants.

“It is a pretty symbol taken for goals (…) The hospital was the busiest in the Dasht-e-Barchi district, largely inhabited by the Hazara minority, the Shia community in Afghanistan often targeted by the Islamic State organization (IS ) “, specifies Sonia Ghezali, France 24 correspondent in Kabul.

Limited access to care, vulnerable women

But this attack goes beyond anything seen before. “It’s so shocking. We know this area has been attacked before, but nobody could have expected it to attack a mother hospital. They came to kill the mothers,” Frédéric Bonnot added.

Its closure, even temporary, worries the NGO when “several maternities are currently closed due to the epidemic of Covid-19”, Assia Shihab specifies. And this health situation is only aggravating the usual where access to care is particularly difficult in this politically unstable and economically dependent country.

For women who are more pregnant, the range of maternal health care services is very limited, “even non-existent,” in the provinces of the country as in the capital, which has experienced a demographic explosion in recent years. The country has one of the highest mothers in the world with 396 deaths per 100,000 births, according to WHO data in 2016.

The peace process is in danger

Shocking for the entire international community, the brutality of the attack on motherhood is no less for the Afghan authorities. Especially a few hours later, a new bomb attack occurred during a funeral in the eastern country. Alleged by the Islamic State group, it left 32 dead and more than 133 injured.

The Taliban does not claim either of the two attacks. However, the Afghan authorities associate the tragedy on May 12 with the many offenses carried out in recent weeks by the insurgent group – more than 3,700, according to Afghan intelligence, since the signing of the US-Taliban agreement on February 29, 2020.

On May 12, President Ashraf Ghani gave orders to resume “operations against the enemy”. On Wednesday, when grieving families bury their children in the womb, the Taliban say they are ready for a counterattack. Arms passage that questions an already uncertain peace process, in a country where the gift of life is now confused with the threat of death.