Afghanistan: 9 MSF staff killed, 37 people injured (19 were staff) in hospital US airstrike in Kunduz – Published 03 Oct 2015 1000z (GMT/UTC)

UPDATED 03 Oct 2015 10:55 GMT

Air strike kills MSF medical staff in Afghanistan

Nine Doctors Without Borders staff killed in bombing of hospital in Kunduz, as NATO admits it may have been involved.

Surviving MSF staff were in shock after the clinic in Kunduz sustained heavy damage in the bombardment [MSF/Al Jazeera]

Surviving MSF staff were in shock after the clinic in Kunduz sustained heavy damage in the bombardment [MSF/Al Jazeera]

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) says at least nine of its staff have been killed in an overnight bombing of a hospital in the embattled Afghan city of Kunduz.

Another 37 people were wounded in the attack, including 19 MSF staff, the medical charity organisation told Al Jazeera.

NATO said on Friday that a US air strike “may have” hit the hospital, which is run by the medical charity, adding that the attack may have resulted in collateral damage.

An MSF spokesperson told Al Jazeera that the death toll is likely to rise, as the “fluid situation at the clinic hampered information gathering.

“The bombing struck the dormitories of the hospital, which explains why we – so far – have only seen deaths among our staff and not among patients,” MSF spokesperson Dalila Mahdawi said.

The MSF hospital is seen as a key medical lifeline in the region, which has been running “beyond capacity” in recent days of fighting which saw the Taliban seize control of the provincial capital for several days.

“At 2:10 am (20:40 GMT) local time … the MSF trauma centre in Kunduz was hit several times during sustained bombing and was very badly damaged,” MSF said in a statement on Friday.

At the time of the bombing, 105 patients and their caretakers and more than 80 MSF international and national staff were present in the hospital, the charity said.

NATO investigation

NATO said in a statement that US forces conducted an air strike in Kunduz at 2:15am local time “against individuals threatening the force”.

“The strike may have resulted in collateral damage to a nearby medical facility. This incident is under investigation,” the statement said.

MSF said it gave the coordinates of the hospital to Afghan and US forces several times to avoid being caught in crossfire.

“As MSF does in all conflict contexts, these precise locations were communicated to all parties on multiple occasions over the past months, including most recently on 29 September,” according to MSF Afghanistan representatives.

The bombing reportedly continued for more than 30 minutes after US and Afghan military offices in Kabul and Washington were first informed.


Residents tell of suffering as battle for Kunduz rages


“MSF urgently seeks clarity on exactly what took place and how this terrible event could have happened,” MSF said.

The MSF trauma centre in Kunduz is the only medical facility in the region that can deal with major injuries.

Following the attack, the medical charity urged all parties involved in the violence to respect the safety of health facilities, patients and staff.

Speaking to Al Jazeera after the attack, Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid said that no Taliban fighters were present in the hospital at the time of the air strike.

“We condemn the bombing on the hospital. It was an attack carried out on innocent people.” Zabiullah told Al Jazeera.

“Our mujahedeen (fighters) were not treated at the MSF trauma center due to prevailing military conditions. Such attacks by the US forces have taken place in Afghanistan for years now. This very attack has once again exposed the ruthless colors of the invaders to the Afghans,” he added.

MSF’s hospital is the only facility of its kind in the whole north-eastern region of Afghanistan [MSF]

However, Sediq Sediqqi, an Afghan interior ministry spokesperson, claimed the fighters were attacking security forces with gunfire and grenades from an area near the hospital.

“According to our information, the Taliban were hiding in the hospital building and the area around it while attacking the forces,” Sediqqi said.

“We are assessing and evaluating the collateral damage to the medical facility. However, in any case, the safety of the civilians comes first,” he added.

A caretaker at the hospital, who was severely injured in the air strike, told Al Jazeera that clinic’s medical staff did not favour any side the conflict.

“We are here to help and treat civilians,” Abdul Manar said.

“Several women and children are also killed in the strike. I could hear them screaming for help inside the hospital while it was set ablaze by the bombing. We are terrified and speechless.”

Battle for Kunduz

The development came a day after the Afghan government claimed it had successfully retaken parts of Kunduz from Taliban fighters who had controlled the strategic city since Monday.

The Taliban, however, claimed it remained in control of most of Kunduz, our correspondent said.

Kunduz is facing a humanitarian crisis, with thousands of civilians caught in the crossfire between government forces and Taliban fighters.

Precise losses in the fighting were not known, but health authorities said on Friday that at least 60 people have been killed and 400 wounded.

As fighting spreads in neighbouring Badakhshan, Takhar and Baghlan provinces, concerns are mounting that the seizure of Kunduz was merely the opening gambit in a new, bolder Taliban strategy to tighten the grip across northern Afghanistan.

Afghan forces, backed by NATO special forces and US air strikes, have been going from house to house in Kunduz in a bid to flush Taliban fighters out of the city.

Al Jazeera’s Qais Azimy, reporting from Puli Khumri, about 130km from Kunduz, said heavy fighting was ongoing in the centre of Kunduz.

“Sources inside the city are reporting heavy clashes between the Taliban and the Afghan army. There is no set frontline between the two sides so the fighting is from street to street at the moment.

“People inside the city are suffering. There is a shortage of food, water and electricity,” our correspondent said.

The Taliban’s offensive in Kunduz, their biggest tactical success since 2001, marks a major blow for Afghanistan’s Western-trained forces, who have largely been fighting on their own since last December.

Civilian and military casualties caused by NATO forces have been one of the most contentious issues in the 14-year campaign against the Taliban, provoking harsh public and government criticism.

US-led NATO forces ended their combat mission in Afghanistan last December, though a 13,000-strong residual force remains for training and counterterrorism operations.

But there has been an escalation in air strikes by NATO forces in recent months despite the drawdown.

Additional reporting by Shereena Qazi. Follow her on Twitter @ShereenaQazi

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

Jordan: MSF Reconstructive Surgery Hospital for War Victims Opens in Amman – Published 08 Sept 2015 1820z (GMT/UTC)

(Image: Enass Abu Khalaf-Tuffaha/MSF)

September 08, 2015

AMMAN, JORDAN—

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) officially opened a newly upgraded reconstructive surgery hospital today in Amman to provide improved treatment to war-wounded patients from across the region.

MSF first established a specialized surgery project in Amman in 2006 to care for victims of the war in Iraq, which it later expanded to receive patients from Iraq, Gaza, Yemen, and Syria. This year, MSF enhanced the project by moving into another hospital structure and renovating it.

“In this new and expanded facility, our highly trained and specialized medical teams from the region are able to improve the quality of care provided to our patients,” said Marc Schakal, MSF head of mission in Amman. “Our highest patient numbers are currently from Syria, followed by Yemen and Iraq. The people of these countries have already witnessed and experienced so much suffering.”

The MSF Specialized Hospital for Reconstructive Surgery provides a comprehensive care package for its patients, which includes physiotherapy and psychosocial support alongside surgical interventions. Patients are also given accommodation, now available on site in the new location, and financial travel assistance to reach the hospital and return home after or in between treatments, if their care plan is staggered over time. Patients often arrive with a family member to assist their care and recovery if needed.

Since 2006, MSF has admitted more than 3,700 patients and conducted over 8,238 surgeries at its project in Amman. Cases are identified by a network of medical liaison officers in the patients’ countries of origin. However, these numbers represent only a very small fraction of the needs for specialized surgery in the region.

“While they may receive initial care for their wounds, our patients do not usually have access to such specialized surgical procedures in their home countries, which are mostly at war,” said Dr. Ashraf Al Bostanji, head surgeon. “These hard-to-reach services include orthopedic, maxillofacial, and plastic reconstructive surgery, which we provide at no cost to the patients and lower running costs than the private sector.”

The hospital is staffed by local and international experts in their fields.

“The surgical techniques adopted in this project are world-class,” said Dr. Ashraf. “For instance, our team conducts microsurgeries, which involves three main types of surgeries: free flaps, nerve grafting, and hand surgery. What makes this project stand out is implementing such a high level of technical expertise for war victims in the humanitarian medical field.”

MSF has conducted more than 134,620 physiotherapy procedures and 45,660 psychosocial sessions in Amman since 2006. Nahla Fadel, a patient from Iraq, arrived in 2013 and underwent 24 surgeries.

“When I arrived, the mobility of my severely burned hands was so limited that I couldn’t comb the hair of my child or even feed him,” she said. “Now, after two years of surgeries with MSF, my hand mobility is almost back to normal.”

MSF has been present in Jordan since 2006. In 2013 it set up a mother and child health care project in Irbid, which also offers mental health support, and an emergency trauma project in Ramtha close to the Syrian border.

MSF also runs clinics in Irbid for noncommunicable diseases and a step-down unit in Zaatari camp for Syrian refugees. For the past two years it has been sending medical donations including surgical kits to health care facilities in the South of Syria.

MSF is an international, independent, medical humanitarian organization that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters, and exclusion from health care. MSF offers assistance to people based on need, irrespective of race, religion, gender, or political affiliation. (Source: MSF)

Uganda: Ebola virus outbreak kills 5, 2 other cases confirmed, 18 suspected, contacts 40 – 231112 1100z

(Image: wikimedia.org)
1976 photograph of two nurses standing in front of Mayinga N., a patient with Ebola virus disease; she died only a few days later due to severe internal bleeding and hemorrhaging.

One person succumbed to the Ebola virus Sunday, bringing the death toll in the latest outbreak of the dreaded Ebola haemorrhagic fever in Uganda to five.

The victim, a 29-year-old woman, died at Bombo Hospital, some 30 kilometres north of the capital Kampala, where she was admitted on Tuesday last week.

Halima Nakimbugwe is said to have contracted the disease while nursing her husband, a boda boda rider, who was the first person to die in the latest epidemic in Luweero District.

Ministry of Health spokesperson Rukia Nakamatte, said Nakimbugwe died yesterday afternoon at Bombo Hospital, where results of the tests carried out confirmed that she had contracted Ebola.

Two other people confirmed to have been infected with the virus have been admitted to Mulago Hospital.

Another 12 suspected to have been infected with the virus are also admitted to Mulago, while another six are at Bombo Hospital.

“The number of confirmed Ebola patients remains the two admitted to Mulago Hospital, while the number of contacts has risen from 34 to 40. These are being monitored both in Kampala and Bombo,” Ms Nakamatte said.

Another person, this time from Mbarara in the western region of the country, was also admitted to Mulago yesterday after he presented signs of the Ebola fever.

His blood samples have been taken for tests and results are expected soon.

In Luweero, a burial team set up by the District Ebola Task Force to ensure that bodies of those confirmed or suspected to have Ebola are handled and buried by a special team, yesterday narrowly escaped lynching by mourners who snatched a body from the Nakatonya Muslim Cemetery in Bombo Town Council.

According the Luweero District disease surveillance officer, Mr Richard Kawenyera, the mourners armed with clubs, sticks and stones accused the special burial team of violating Muslim burial rites by wrapping the dead body in a bag.

They insisted on washing the body before burial as part of the Islamic rites.

“We are worried because we do not know what happened afterwards. The blood sample was taken to the Uganda Virus Research Institute and the results had not been received to confirm whether or not he died of Ebola. If a positive result turns up, these people will have touched the body of an Ebola victim,” Mr Kawenyera said on Saturday.

The Luweero District Health Officer, Dr Joseph Okware, said the man’s body had been taken to the Nyimbwa Health Centre IV by relatives, after he was found dead in a store at Ndejje University on Friday.

“They wanted us to ascertain the cause of death since he is a resident of Kakute Village in Nyimbwa Sub-county, where there has been an Ebola outbreak. We handled the case carefully until we got information that the mourners had grabbed the body from our team.”

A special isolation centre for both the suspected and confirmed cases is being set up with the support from the Medecines Sans Frotiers, at Nyimbwa Health Centre IV, where patients are expected to be transferred to from Bombo Military Hospital on Monday (today).

In Nakasongola District, traditional healers have been banned from admitting patients whom they do not know following the Ebola outbreak which has claimed two lives in the neighbouring Luweero District.

This follows reports that an Ebola patient from Luweero may have been rushed to one of the traditional medicine men’s shrines in Nakasongola before she died. This has sparked off panic among local residents.

Tuesday, 20 November, 2012 at 04:00 UTC RSOE

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