3 million people died since the Omicron variant emerged, shattering perceptions that the pandemic is over.
Yesterday, we received 12 wounded patients at EMERGENCY’s Surgical Centre for War Victims in Kabul. At around 7pm local time, two bicycle bombs went off in the city centre, hitting dozens of people, some of them young pupils from a local school.
The attack followed another the day before, which saw a motorbike blown up and five patients transferred to us us. No one has been arrested for either of the two bombings, which were committed in the same week that the government in Kabul called for a reduction in violence. It did so the Saturday before, after negotiations with the United States and the Taliban, which could lead to genuine peace talks.
‘Violence is all around you in Afghanistan. It’s a reality and you can’t frame it any other way. In 2019, there were 10,329 civilian victims. That’s 5% fewer than the year before and the lowest amount of victims recorded by UNAMA, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, since 2013, but it still means more than 800 children dead and is the sixth year in a row that the number of civilian victims, both dead and wounded, was over 10,000 people,’ explains Marco Puntin, from EMERGENCY’s Surgical Centre in Kabul.
‘The thing we should stress, though,’ Puntin goes on, ‘is that this week we saw a reduction in violence and attacks of about 70% on last week’s average, according to INSO. At the Surgical Centre in Kabul, we have hardly ever seen a drop in violence like this. In February we admitted 133 patients, a relatively low number compared to our average. There were 215 in the same month in 2019.’
This truce does not equate to a ceasefire, but in these days the US and the Taliban will meet in Doha to sign an agreement that will see American troops gradually pulled out of Afghanistan.
Although the Afghan government is not part of the negotiations between the US and the Taliban, it will play a leading role in the next phase, namely the talks between Afghan parties, who will have to come up with their own real solution to this conflict.
Afghanistan has been at war for so long that not one civilian has been spared from its effects in some way. At EMERGENCY, we have witnessed this over the 21 years we have worked in the country and continue to see it.
This could be a crucial moment for Afghanistan, as it steps onto a path towards peace.