Afghanistan: UN calls on all parties to respect protected status of medical facilities and personnel

A doctor immunizes an Afghan woman against tetanus. Photo: WHO/Chris Black

23 February 2016 – Following two incidents in the past week that put access to health care in Afghanistan under attack, the United Nations mission in the country has urged all parties to refrain from targeting hospitals and to take all feasible precautions to prevent casualties among their patients and personnel.

“Medical facilities, medical personnel, and those who are receiving treatment, for disease or conflict-related injuries, must never be placed at risk, let alone subject to attack,” said Mark Bowden, the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator and the Secretary-General’s Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan, in a press release.

“The work that humanitarian and medical personnel carry out must not be restricted, and all parties to the conflict must abstain from actions that may place these persons or facilities at risk,” he added.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) noted that on 22 February, in the Sia Gird District of Parwan Province, a suicide attacker targeting Afghan security forces detonated an improvised explosive device in proximity to the entrance of the district health clinic, killing seven civilians and injuring seven others, including three boys.

On 18 February, the Afghan Ministry of Interior Special Forces and the international military conducted a joint operation in the Tangi Sayedan area of Daimirdad District of Wardak Province and entered a Government health clinic funded by the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan. After the manager of the facility was tied up and other medical personnel forced with him into a room, two patients and a 15-year-old boy on visit were taken to a nearby shop and summarily executed.

UNAMA reminded all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan of their obligation to respect the provision of health care, not harm medical personnel and patients, and ensure that the protected status of medical facilities is respected.

The Mission also said that the 2015 Annual Report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, which it issued earlier this month with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (OHCHR), documented an increase in the number of conflict-related incidents deliberately targeting hospitals, clinics and health personnel.

UNAMA reiterated that intentional attacks on or in the vicinity of education facilities and hospitals, or on their personnel, committed as part of the ongoing conflict, constitute violations and abuses of international human rights law and breaches of international humanitarian law, and also violate Afghanistan’s constitution.


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