WHO 'appalled' by deadly Kabul hospital attack

Newborn babies who lost their mothers during the attack lie on a bed at a hospital in Kabul, May 13, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

GENEVA (AFP) - The head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Wednesday (May 13) he was "shocked and appalled" by the deadly attack on a maternity hospital in Afghanistan.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus held a minute of silence, in memory of those killed, during a virtual press conference at the WHO's headquarters in Geneva.

Three gunmen stormed a Kabul maternity hospital Tuesday as parents brought infants and children for appointments at the unit run by the medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

On Wednesday, Afghanistan's Deputy Health Minister Waheed Majroh said at least 24 people were killed in the attack and another 16 wounded.

The attackers were eventually killed in a lengthy clearance operation during which heavily armed Afghan security forces carried babies from the scene.

"I was shocked and appalled to hear of the attack on an MSF hospital in Afghanistan, which led to the deaths of nurses, mothers and babies," Tedros said.

"Civilians and health workers should never be a target," he added.

"We need peace for health and health for peace. And we need it now. In the time of a global pandemic, I urge all stakeholders to put aside politics and prioritise peace, a global ceasefire and ending this pandemic together."

Tedros then urged everyone present and following the briefing online to stand in silence "out of solidarity and respect for those killed and injured, as well as all those nurses and health professionals working right now in some of the most difficult environments in the world."

MSF said it opened the 55-bed maternity unit in Dasht-e-Barchi Hospital in 2014.

No group has so far claimed the attack, but Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has blamed both the Taleban and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant group.

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