Doc­tors forced to flee em­bat­tled city: officials

China Daily (USA) - - WORLD - By REUTERS in Kun­duz, Afghanistan

Fight­ing in the north­ern Afghan city of Kun­duz has forced many hospi­tal staff to leave for safety, officials said on Thurs­day, fur­ther jeop­ar­diz­ing med­i­cal care for hun­dreds of peo­ple.

Gun­bat­tles have con­tin­ued for four days af­ter Tal­iban mil­i­tants slipped past the city’s de­fenses onMon­day.

Govern­ment troops, backed by US spe­cial forces and air strikes, have re­peat­edly de­clared that they are in con­trol of the city, but res­i­dents re­port that heavy fight­ing has forced many peo­ple to flee.

Among those flee­ing Kun­duz are about 70 per­cent of the staff at the city’s main pub­lic hospi­tal, which was struck by several rock­ets and small arms fire, said Marzia Yaf­tali Salaam, a doc­tor.

The 200-bed pub­lic hospi­tal is the main provider of med­i­cal care in Kun­duz af­ter a more ad­vanced trauma cen­ter run by Medecins Sans Fron­tiers was de­stroyed by an Amer­i­can air strike last year.

In the past three days, the hospi­tal has been in­un­dated by at least 210 pa­tients, many of them civil­ians, in­clud­ing women and chil­dren, in­jured in the fight­ing, Salaam said.

“Many of the wounded had to be car­ried to clin­ics in sur­round­ing districts and pri­vate clin­ics in the city,” she said. “If the sit­u­a­tion re­mains the same, we may be forced to halt our ser­vices.”

Dur­ing a lull in the fight­ing on Wed­nes­day, nearly 50 ca­su­al­ties were rushed to the hospi­tal in the span of a few hours, said Hameed Alam, head of the pub­lic health depart­ment in Kun­duz.

Thou­sands of res­i­dents have fled the city, with those who re­main fac­ing se­ri­ous wa­ter, food and elec­tric­ity short­ages, as well as threats from the fight­ing.

The Tal­iban, who ruled Afghanistan with an iron fist from 1996 to 2001, are seek­ing to top­ple the West­ern­backed govern­ment in Kabul and reim­pose Is­lamic rule.

“There is fight­ing in ev­ery street and the sit­u­a­tion is crit­i­cal,” said Is­mail Kawasi, a spokesman for the Pub­lic HealthMin­istry in Kabul.

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