Mohamed Ameen Dabhelia - 2018/10/03
Three years on, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) remembers one of the darkest moments in its history.
On the 3rd of October 2015, U.S. airstrikes killed 42 people and destroyed the MSF trauma hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan.
Hospitals are being continually dragged onto the battlefield, and patients and their doctors and nurses are sacrificed in the process.
MSF's trauma centre in Kunduz, Afghanistan opened in August 2011 to provide free, high-quality medical and surgical care and physical therapy to victims of trauma, as well as those with conflict-related injuries from bomb blasts or gunshots.
Speaking to Radio Islam, Guilhem Molinie, the General Director of MSF (who at the time was the Head of Mission in Afghanistan for MSF) said the tragic incident could be described as a sudden loss.
“We trying to save lives of people who are stranded in war, and certainly on that day and since then we recall that we lost not only patients, which is something which is unbearable for a medical organisation but also 14 of our colleagues that were working in these hospitals.”
Jonine Lotter, an MSF nurse told Radio Islam that three years on, she remembers her colleagues who lost their lives on that horrific day.
“I was in the hospital at that time, I think back and I remember my colleagues in the hospital that died.”
Patients burned in their beds, medical staff were decapitated and lost limbs, and others were shot from the air while they fled the burning building.
The 92-bed hospital was the only facility treating major trauma injuries in all of north-eastern Afghanistan, serving thousands of people.
According to official statistics from MSF, since opening the hospital in 2011, more than 15,000 surgeries were conducted and more than 68,000 emergency patients were treated.
Following the attack, MSF demanded an independent investigation by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission (IHFFC).
And, not surprisingly… it has been a dead end thus far.
Today, the 3rd of October 2018, MSF commemorates the 42 lives lost during the attack drawing attention to ongoing attacks on medical facilities.
Molinie says that attacks are either dismissed as tragic ‘mistakes’ or denied outright.
“We become political footballs as States desperately point fingers at each other while claiming at the same time that their bombs are the smartest and that their airstrikes are the most ‘humanitarian’.”
There have been no impartial investigations carried out by an independent international body into any of the attacks on hospitals that have occurred over the years.
In the case of Kunduz, the U.S. carried out an internal military investigation and made a heavily reduced report.
But the MSF concedes that it is more they received from any other military force that was involved in bombing the MSF facility.
MSF state that the investigation undertaken by the U.S. allowed them to gain a deeper insight into the events that occurred in Kunduz on the night the hospital was attacked.
But adds, that some of what they have learnt from the investigation report is deeply worrying.
The MSF report reads:
• The ground troops in Kunduz falsely assumed that “all civilians had fled and only Taliban remained in the city.
• They made no effort to find out if this was actually true and did not take the necessary precautions to avoid civilian casualties.”
• The entire city of Kunduz was deemed hostile. While invoking ‘self-defence’ rules, U.S. forces in Kunduz were opening fire pre-emptively in a ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ military operation.
• No one in the chain of command consulted the no-strike list in the hours leading up to the attack. The report determines that our hospital was misidentified.
MSF says they continue to engage with the highest levels of the U.S and Afghanistan governments to gain assurances that this tragic incident will not occur again.
Listen to the full interview below with Guilhem Molinie, the General Director of MSF (who at the time was the Head of Mission in Afghanistan for MSF) and Jonine Lotter, an MSF nurse below: