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Afghan civilian war injuries double in Kandahar conflict

Peter Beaumont

Victims in hospital after an explosion at a wedding in Kandahar. Photograph: Nosrait Shoaib/AFP/Getty Images


October 13, 2010

Wounded patients flooding into hospitals, says Red Cross, while fighting is stopping the sick getting basic medical care

The number of Afghan civilians hospitalised for serious war wounds has doubled in 12 months in Kandahar, the focus of an ongoing US-led campaign against Taliban strongholds.

In August and September, Mirwais regional hospital in the country's second biggest city admitted almost 1,000 new patients with weapons injuries, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The total for the same period of 2009 was 500.

The Red Cross reported a "drastic increase" in the number of amputations from war injuries, reflecting the nature of the violence.

Afghan and Nato forces launched Operation Dragon Strike to retake strongholds in the insurgency's heartland around Kandahar from the Taliban. But the area had already been the focus of escalating military operations for weeks. There are now about 30,000 international troops in the southern Taliban heartlands of Helmand and Kandahar provinces.

Describing the influx of new patients as "hitting record highs", Reto Stocker, the Red Cross chief in Kabul, said the casualties being seen at Mirwais hospital were only "the tip of the iceberg".

The Red Cross has been distributing emergency first aid kits at the front lines.

The latest figures from Kandahar have dramatically underlined a warning from the UN this year that civilian deaths caused by the conflict were up by a third from the previous year.

That report noted a sharp increase in suicide attacks, roadside bombings and political assassinations. Other injuries were from air strikes including drones and other military actions by the coalition forces. The UN report noted three suicide bombings a week and a 45% increase in assassinations of officials.

A second consequence of the increasing violence and instability, according to the Red Cross, has been the inability of local people to reach healthcare centres, often with devastating consequences.

Stocker said the number of people suffering as an indirect result of the conflict far outnumbered those with gunshot and bomb injuries.

"Our greatest challenge consists in maintaining access to the areas hardest hit by the fighting, but the increase in the number of armed groups is making this much harder for us," Stocker said.

"The result is that children die from tetanus, measles and tuberculosis – easily prevented with vaccines – while women die in childbirth and otherwise strong men succumb to simple infections."

Coalition forces reported a typical incident around Kandahar this week when a joint US-Afghan patrol came under attack in the Zharay district and called in aircraft to retaliate.

Several hours later a man brought an injured child to a nearby forward operating base, indicating the child's wounds were from a mortar strike that day. Two civilians were reported to have been killed in the air strike.



:: Article nr. 70743 sent on 14-oct-2010 00:11 ECT

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Link: www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/oct/13/afghanistan-taliban



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