Violence Against or Obstruction of Health Care in Afghanistan in 2020

Originally published


On May 12, 2020 gunmen wearing police uniforms attacked the INGO-supported Dasht-e-Barchi Hospital in a Shiite Hazara neighborhood in Kabul city. The attack was targeted at the maternity ward of the hospital, killing 15 mothers, three of whom were in the delivery room, two young boys, a local midwife, and six other people. Three health workers and two new-born babies were among the injured.
The INGO head of programmes described how the perpetrators “went through the rooms in the maternity section, shooting women in their beds. It was methodical.
Walls sprayed with bullets, blood on the floors in the room, vehicles burned out and windows shot through”. The attack deliberately targeted new mothers.


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

The SHCC count includes incidents shared by the Ministry of Health, and 78 incidents uniquely reported by the WHO Surveillance System for Attacks on Health Care (SSA). However, the detail available for individual incidents was not always sufficient to cross-check incidents in a meaningful way.

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

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

Health workers were killed and injured, kidnapped, or arrested. Threats and hostilities between warring parties additionally caused health facilities to suspend or partially suspend 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 factsheet is based on the dataset 2020 SHCC Health Care Afghanistan Data, which is available on the Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX).