KABUL -- Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has announced that it has decided to cease activities at the Dasht-e-Barchi hospital in Kabul, following a deadly attack at the facility’s maternity wing last month, saying that similar "horrific" attacks may occur there in the future.
In a statement on June 15, the Geneva-based charity said 16 mothers were "systematically shot dead" during the May 12 attack, while an MSF midwife, two children aged 7 and 8, and six other people were also killed.
Afghan authorities have put the blame on the Taliban, which has denied involvement, while representatives of foreign governments pointed the finger at Afghanistan’s Islamic State (IS) affiliate.
"We were aware that our presence in Dasht-e-Barchi carried risks, but we just couldn't believe that someone would take advantage of the absolute vulnerability of women about to give birth to murder them and their babies," said Thierry Allafort-Duverger, MSF's director-general.
"Today, we have to accept reality: higher walls and thicker security doors won't prevent such horrific assaults from happening again," said Allafort-Duverger. "To remain would mean to factor in such loss of human lives as a parameter of our activity, and this is unthinkable."
MSF has been working in Dasht-e-Barchi in collaboration with the Afghan Ministry of Public Health since 2014, providing free-of-charge maternity and neonatal care.
A large population belonging to the mainly Shi'ite Hazara community lives in the area and has been targeted by IS militants in the past.
More than 70 staff and patients in MSF health-care programs have been killed in Afghanistan over the past 16 years, according to the aid organization.
MSF, which first started working in the country in 1980, continues to run medical programs in the provinces of Helmand, Herat, Kandahar, Khost, and Kunduz.