Q&A: Bombing of MSF's Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan

Andrew Quilty / Oculi/Oculi

The Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) trauma hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, was struck by a series of aerial bombing raids in the early hours of October 3, 2015. 

Were any international staff killed or injured?

Twelve staff members have been killed and 19 staff members were wounded in the attack. All killed and injured staff were Afghan. All international staff have been evacuated following the attack.

Is the hospital still running?

The MSF hospital in Kunduz is currently not operating, following the sustained bombing early Saturday morning. All international MSF staff members have been evacuated to Kabul. All critical patients were referred to other health facilities. The MSF Afghan staff who were not killed are either being treated in health facilities in the region or have left the hospital. On Saturday, some assisted in providing health care in other non-MSF facilities in the region, and others have joined their families at this difficult time. No medical activities are possible now in the MSF hospital in Kunduz, while the medical needs are immense.

Do you think this was a deliberate attack on your hospital?

There is no way for us to know that. This is why we are demanding a full and transparent investigation by an independent international body into these tragic events. The results of this investigation should be made public and we will demand access to the full report, not just the conclusions.

Does this constitute a war crime?

Under the clear presumption that a war crime has been committed, MSF demands that a full and transparent investigation into the event be conducted by an independent international body. Relying only on an internal investigation by a party to the conflict would be wholly insufficient.

Have you received any apology from the Afghan or U.S. governments?

We have received no official communication or apology since the attack.

There have been claims that the Taliban were using the hospital as a base, justifying attack.

It’s simply absurd and untrue. The hospital was full of MSF staff, patients and their caretakers. It is 12 MSF staff members and 10 patients, including three children, who were killed in the attack. We reiterate that the main hospital building, where medical personnel were caring for patients, was repeatedly and very precisely hit during each aerial raid, while the rest of the compound was left mostly untouched.

Will MSF continue its activities in Kunduz?

Since intense fighting broke out in Kunduz on Monday, MSF had had to expand the usually 92-bed facility up to 150 beds to cope with the influx of wounded. MSF had treated 394 wounded people so far that week. Staff had been working around the clock to respond to the huge medical needs. This is exactly why MSF was there: to treat anyone who needed treatment, with total impartiality and respecting the principles of medical ethics. Beyond the tragedy of the loss of life in the horrific bombing, it is appalling that the people of Kunduz are now deprived of MSF's trauma medical services at a time when they are needed more than ever.

It is painful for MSF to withdraw at a time when the medical needs are so acute, but in the aftermath of being bombed, it is too early to know whether it would be safe to continue running medical activities. MSF works hard in conflict areas, as had been the case in Kunduz, to ensure all fighting parties respect the sanctity of the medical space.

At the moment, MSF has not received any explanations or assurances that give us the confidence to be able to return. This is why the organization is demanding a full and transparent investigation by an independent international body of what happened, and why. Without that information, there are too many unknowns to allow a return in the immediate future. MSF feels very committed to the people in Kunduz and will explore, as soon as key questions are answered, options to return with medical services in the Kunduz region.

Read "Unspeakable": An MSF Nurse Recounts the Attack

Qudus brought his four year old daughter khal Bibi in after she fell through the roof of their home and injured her leg. At Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Kunduz Trauma Centre where free treatment is provided to patients regardless of their political affiliation (ie. the side on which the fight in the war between the armed opposition group and Government forces) . MSF’s trauma centre is the only facility of its kind in the whole north-eastern region of Afghanistan providing high level life- and limb-saving trauma care. MSF opened Kunduz Trauma Centre in August 2011 to provide high quality, free medical and surgical care to victims of trauma such as traffic accidents, as well as those with conflict related injuries from bomb blasts or gunshots.
Andrew Quilty / Oculi/Oculi