Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Kunduz Redux

Over twenty years ago, fresh from my fellowship in neuro-oncology, I looked into volunteering with Medicins Sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders (MSF). It was before I had dependents--two children that I am now working to raise to independence. I knew there might be risks, so better to do it before I had someone who needed my care as a mother.

At that time, the war in Bosnia was heating up. I knew that surgeons were likely to be sent to war zones, as we are much needed to care for the victims of violence. I volunteered that I had studied 2 Slavic languages, so had a start on communicating with patients in Bosnia. It turned out that I didn't go. Instead, I started to work at an inner city hospital, where I saw victims of a different kind of war.

Today, I noticed two articles about an event last October 3, when US airstrikes targeted the MSF hospital in Kunduz: http://www.msf.org.uk/article/kunduz-what-was-lost-a-doctor-s-story

The hospital was one that provided care to the northeastern region of Afghanistan. It has not yet reopened. It served all, civilians and combatants. But, it did not allow any weapons on its campus.

Clearly, patients and those caring for them are not engaged in war. Hence, it should have had protection under the rules of war. Yet, it was repeatedly attacked on October 3, despite having announced its coordinates. So, at some level, a mistake was made. Over time, more facts will come out. But, we do need to remember the victims, those who chose to risk their lives to care for others. We need to thank them for their service. 

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