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Medical community must do more to tackle hospital bombings

Medical community must do more to tackle hospital bombings

Doctor working at Afghanistan hospital when it was bombed speaks out

It’s been 18 months since I witnessed the decimation of our fully functional hospital in Kunduz, Northern Afghanistan by aerial bombardment, writes Kathleen Thomas in The BMJ today.

In 2015 she worked with Médecins Sans Frontières in their Kunduz Trauma Centre in Afghanistan, which was bombed by the US Military on October 3, 2015 while she was inside.

She now uses her own story to draw attention to, and advocate against, the growing trend of attacks on hospitals and medical facilities worldwide.

Until the bombing, she believed that hospitals were protected from military attack under International Humanitarian Law. “I was naive to the fact that hospital bombardment was increasingly being used in most active conflict zones as a tactic of warfare. But after seeing it with my own eyes, I am now acutely aware of the staggering reality,” she writes.

Hospital bombings are now part of a multi-dimensional war strategy which uses large scale violence to deprive people of their access to healthcare, she argues.

Since the beginning of their respective conflicts, over 450 hospitals in Syria and over 160 hospitals in Yemen have been bombed. Yet despite calls for all warring parties fully comply with the rules of war, hospitals continue to be bombed with impunity.

How is this allowed to go on? Thomas believes there is a global apathy, “evident in the way these attacks are conceptualised, defended, dismissed, and even justified in the minds of the average citizen.”

She calls on doctors to “openly condemn these war crimes” and “push our national medical associations to be active in publicly censuring such attacks and demand that our governments do what they can to stop it happening.”

If we remain silent about hospital attacks, “we must acknowledge that we are complicit; and this new norm will continue to be tolerated,” she concludes.


Opinion: Hospital bombardment - the new weapon of war?


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