After ISAF attack on clinic: SCA seeks respect for the sanctity of health facilities


SCA has met with ISAF to discuss the serious incident in late October when an SCA-supported clinic in Wardak was occupied for three days by ISAF and ANA soldiers. ISAF acknowledged that it was a breach of internationally recognized conventions about the sanctity of health facilities, and reassured SCA that actions will be taken to avoid that similar incidents are repeated.

It was on the 23rd of October 2012 when ISAF and ANA soldiers raided the clinic in Sewak, Chak district of Wardak province, breaking up doors and detaining clinic staff and civilians. The clinic was occupied by the soldiers for three days, using it as a detention area and logistical hub. The surrounding wall was partially destroyed, windows and doors broken, and examinations beds, chairs and cupboards damaged. As the clinic remained closed, health workers were prevented from fulfilling their duties and no patients could seek care.

–  It is not only a totally unacceptable breach against all established rules, but can also have a negative long-term impact on access to health care for ordinary Afghans. Through incidents as these, patients and health staff lose confidence in the health facility as a neutral zone respected by warring parties and will thus fear approaching it again, says Andreas Stefansson, Country Director of Swedish Committee for Afghanistan.

The Geneva Convention states that medical personnel as well as fixed and mobile medical units are to be respected by all warring parties, and are under no circumstances to be attacked. ISAF confirmed at the meeting that their policies are clear regarding respecting the Geneva Convention, claiming that the occupation of the clinic was unintentional.

–  We expect ISAF to take our concerns seriously and look forward to the actions they so far have committed themselves to in reviewing their mapping of health facilities and improving the training and mentoring of troops in the protection of medical facilities, says Andreas Stefansson, Country Director of SCA.

–  Together with other health actors in Afghanistan, we intend to continue keeping a close eye on these matters, Andreas Stefansson adds.

More facts about the SCA Sewak clinic and the occupation, click here