Violence against or obstructing health care in Afghanistan in 2020 – Afghanistan

On May 12, 2020, armed men wearing police uniforms attacked the INGO-supported Dasht-e-Barchi hospital in a Shiite Hazara neighborhood in Kabul city. The attack targeted the maternity ward of the hospital, killing 15 mothers, including three in the delivery room, two young boys, a local midwife and six others. Three health workers and two newborns were among the injured.
The INGO program manager described how the attackers “walked through the wards of the maternity ward shooting women in their beds. It was methodical.
Walls sprayed with bullets, blood on the floor of the room, vehicles set on fire and windows crossed ”. The attack was deliberately aimed at new mothers.


By collating and cross-checking the individual incidents identified through multiple data collection efforts, the Safeguarding Health in Conflict Coalition (SHCC) identified 106 specific incidents of violence or obstruction of health services in Afghanistan in 2020.

The SHCC tally includes incidents shared by the Ministry of Health and 78 incidents reported only by the WHO surveillance system for attacks on health care (SSA). However, the details available for individual incidents were not always sufficient to cross-reference the incidents in a meaningful way.

The SHCC did not have access to data on specific incidents identified by other data collection initiatives, including the WHO Health Cluster and the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). Therefore, it remains unclear to what extent these sources reported the same or different incidents. In 2019, the SHCC recorded 101 incidents.

In general, the figures reported by the different sources are in the same range. However, one cannot exclude the possibility that each data source identified unique events and by bringing them all together, the total number would increase. We note that the WHO Health Cluster reported 57 health facility closures in Afghanistan.

Health workers have been killed and injured, kidnapped or arrested. Threats and hostilities between the belligerents have also led health establishments to suspend or partially suspend their services, which, according to the WHO, has deprived up to 3 million people of access to health care.9 The presence of improvised explosive devices prevented health workers from accessing clinics. This fact sheet is based on the 2020 SHCC Health Care Afghanistan Data dataset, which is available on the Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX).

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