MSF’s decision to end its activities in the Dasht-e-Barchi maternity ward is painful. MSF has run this maternity ward since November 2014 in a context where access to essential care is already limited for the more than one million people who live in the area. Most of them are from the Hazara community, an ethnic minority group that has been historically marginalized and affected by poverty and displacement. With almost 16,000 deliveries in 2019, the Dasht-e-Barchi maternity ward was one of MSF’s biggest such projects worldwide. By pushing MSF to end its work in the hospital, the assailants have left women and babies without access to essential medical care in a country where maternal and neonatal mortality rates remain high.
While no information has emerged about the perpetrators or the motive of last month’s assault, it is clear that mothers, babies, and health staff were targeted deliberately. MSF is deeply concerned that similar attacks targeting our staff and patients may be repeated in the future.
“We were aware that our presence in Dasht-e-Barchi carried risks,” said Thierry Allafort-Duverger, MSF’s general director. “But we just couldn't believe that someone would take advantage of the absolute vulnerability of women about to give birth to exterminate them and their babies.”