Afghan civilian war injuries double in Kandahar conflict

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

Nosrait Shoaib/AFP/Getty Images

Peter Beaument
Guardian

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.

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