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October 5, 2015

Doctors Without Borders outraged by U.S. attack on hospital

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An airstrike on a hospital in Northern Afghanistan over the weekend has an international aid organization demanding answers.

Doctors Without Borders has called for an independent investigation into the U.S. airstrike on the trauma center in the city of Kunduz that killed at least 12 hospital staff and seven patients early Saturday morning.

The organization, also known as Medecins Sans Frontieres, sends health workers to many of the world’s war and disaster-torn regions to provide care and takes extreme care in letting all parties in a region know they operate as a neutral entity.

In the days and weeks before the attack, the organization relayed their coordinates both to the Afghan and U.S. militaries, according to executive director of Doctors Without Borders in the U.S. Jason Cone. Their last communication came four days before on Sept. 29.

A week ago, Taliban forces captured the city of Kunduz in northeastern Afghanistan. Heavy fighting has continued in the area as the Afghan military attempts to reclaim the city.

When the attack began, the organization immediately began contacting the U.S. and Afghan militaries to stop, Cone said. Bombs continued to fall on the hospital, however, destroying most of the facility and leaving 37 wounded in addition to the 19 killed.

The facility was the only trauma care center in the area, so the wounded must now travel two hours away to the nearest hospital, according to Cone. The organization’s international staff has been evacuated to Kabul.

The U.S. military said they would launch an investigation, but Doctors Without Borders is demanding an independent examination of the events that allowed this incident to take place.

“We don’t want to just hear that this was some kind of mistake and that there’s just collateral damage,” Cone said.


 Vocab

Kunduz — a city in northern Afghanistan, which serves as the capital of Kunduz Province

Doctors Without Borders — an international humanitarian aid organization that provides medical care in impoverished and war-torn regions of the world

Taliban — an Islamic fundamentalist political organization in Afghanistan currently fighting Afghan and U.S. forces for control of the region

Warm up questions
  1. What is Doctors without Borders? Where does it operate?
  2. What do you know about the current fighting in Afghanistan?
  3. What is the Taliban?
Critical thinking questions
  1. Why is the head of Doctors without Borders-USA pressing for an independent investigation after the U.S. airstrike on the hospital?
  2. Why do aid groups like Doctors without Borders not take sides in conflict zones?
  3. Are incidents like this to be expected during armed conflicts?
  4. What can the U.S. do to prevent more incidents like this one?
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