Today, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is remembering one of the darkest moments in its history. On 3 October 2015, U.S. airstrikes killed 42 people and destroyed the MSF trauma hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. As we grieve the loss of our colleagues and patients, we are left with the question: is it still possible to safely provide medical care on the frontline? In the past year, there have been a further 77 attacks on medical facilities run and supported by MSF in Syria and Yemen. Hospitals are being continually dragged onto the battlefield, and patients and their doctors and nurses are sacrificed in the process.
MSF addresses the UN
"Many attacks are brushed off as mistakes, committed in the fog of war. We reject the word “mistake.” MSF International President, Dr Joanne Liu addresses the #UNSC on the 28 September 2016 in New York, again calling on the international community to #StopBombingHospitals Medical space is #NotATarget https://www.msf.org.au/article/statements-opinion/msf-president-un-security-council-failure-reflects-lack-political-willPosted by Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) on Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Médecins Sans Frontières has taken a decision to publically release the initial outcomes of its own MSF review of what happened before, during and immediately after the US airstrikes on the hospital in Kunduz.
“The hospital was razed to the ground after a wave of attack from the air. We lost our ability to treat patients at a time when we were needed the most. Thirty of our patients and medical staff died. Some of them lost their limbs and were decapitated in the explosions. Others were shot by the circling gunship while fleeing the burning building. We were forced to leave patients to die on the operating table and others burning in their ICU beds.
The view from inside the hospital is that this attack was conducted with a purpose to kill and destroy.
In 2011, MSF decided to open a trauma hospital in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz, to provide high-quality, free surgical care to victims of all types of trauma. In that region, severely injured people were forced to make long and dangerous journeys to the capital Kabul or Pakistan to receive the care they needed. MSF teams converted shipping containers into a functional hospital equipped with 55 beds, an emergency room, two operating theatres, an intensive care unit, as well as X-ray and laboratory facilities.
Starting in 2012, massive construction work transformed the old Spinzar building into a 92 bed high-level trauma hospital. In 2013, medical teams soon began to perform complex internal fixation procedures. The combination of the expansion plus the need to maintain a high quality of care meant lots of recruitment and lots of training.
In only a few years, the hospital had become a life-line for people in Kunduz and the surrounding provinces.
On 28 September 2015, the MSF hospital suddenly found itself in the middle of a quickly shifting frontline when the armed opposition launched a take-over of Kunduz city. The team was overwhelmed with hundreds of wounded patients.
Starting at 2:08am on Saturday 3 October, a United States AC-130 gunship fired 211 shells on the main hospital building where patients were sleeping in their beds or being operated on in the operating theatre. Fourteen of our colleagues, 24 of our patients and four of their caretakers were killed in the attack. Thirty seven people were injured.
Thousands of people are now left without access to life-saving medical care.