Suspected Taliban attack on Afghan hospital sends vital Covid vaccines up in flames amid surge in cases

Suspected Taliban attack on Afghan hospital sends vital Covid vaccines up in flames amid surge in cases

The Taliban are suspected of having launched a mortar attack into a hospital in eastern Afghanistan. The obliterated hospital contained vital Covid vaccines, which were set to be used to inoculate the population as cases climb.

A former spokesperson for the National Security Council of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Kabir Haqmal, took to Twitter to report the attack on the hospital, stating that the Taliban terror group often target civilians and public spaces in order to “cause harm to innocent people.” The Asadabad Central Hospital in Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar region was hit with a mortar attack early Wednesday morning.

However, the Taliban’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, has denied any responsibility.

According to local police, the rounds were fired from the mountains. Whilst no casualties have been reported, the financial damage incurred, as well as the loss of vital vaccines, is significant.

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According to a health official from the Kunar region, Aziz Safai, “different types of vaccine, including doses meant to fight polio and Covid-19, were destroyed in the fire”. The attack on the hospital comes as a real blow to Afghanistan’s already lagging vaccination campaign, with only 0.9% of the population is fully vaccinated.

Almost 110,000 Covid-19 cases have been recorded in Afghanistan since the start of the pandemic, with 4,366 deaths. However, the true numbers are suspected to be significantly higher.

In early June, Afghanistan’s health ministry spokesman, Ghulam Dastagir Nazari, stated that the country was in “the middle of a crisis,” as three million Covid doses from the WHO that were expected to arrive in April will instead arrive in August. The country has relied heavily on donations of AstraZeneca from India, and has purchased Sinopharm from China.

This comes as the Taliban is also making advances in the country. On June 20 it was reported that the Taliban had managed to seize 17 districts in eight provinces, bringing the total number of districts lost to the Taliban to 60.

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