• Press Release

Afghanistan: Civilians describe severe shortages of food and medicine in embattled Kunduz

October 6, 2016

The Afghan government and Taliban forces should urgently facilitate swift and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief into Kunduz, where thousands of civilians are trapped in increasingly dire conditions, Amnesty International said today.

The organization has interviewed medical workers and civilians stuck in Kunduz amid fighting after the Taliban launched an assault on 3 October. Kunduz residents have described grim scenes as food and water supplies have been exhausted and electricity was cut. The city’s civilian hospital has run out of medical supplies and sustained rocket and gunfire attacks on 5 October.

“Civilians in Kunduz are once again at a precipice, and time is running out. Unless all parties to the conflict permit a humanitarian corridor to allow vital aid in and people to flee, we could soon be looking at a devastating humanitarian crisis,” said Champa Patel, South Asia Director at Amnesty International. 

“International humanitarian law clearly prohibits launching attacks against, or from, civilian areas – those suspected of criminal responsibility must be brought to justice in fair trials.”

Testimonies from Kunduz

One civilian woman in Kunduz described the Taliban’s indiscriminate attacks in the city:

“[The] Taliban are shelling indiscriminately and some of the rockets have landed in civilian areas, and two hit the courtyard of the Kunduz hospital. People are not able to take their injured to the hospital or bury the dead bodies because of the ongoing fierce fighting in the city and there is no ambulance service to take the casualties to the hospitals.”

A doctor at Kunduz civilian hospital complained that medical supplies were running low and that Taliban fighters were harassing medical workers: “The Taliban are calling [the hospital] and asking doctors to provide them with medical equipment or threatening them, [ordering them] to come to the front line and treat their wounded soldiers.”  

The hospital is understaffed and has run out of medical supplies and food for patients. Most hospital staff members haven’t slept for several nights, he said. Another female doctor reported that since the conflict started the Kunduz hospital treated more than 200 people wounded in the conflict, some were released from the hospital while the majority had to be hospitalized due to the seriousness of their injuries.

Another doctor also told Amnesty International that, due to the shortages and the constant barrage against the hospital, most non-conflict related patients as well as some wounded people were taken to the neighbouring provinces by their families. But it is unknown whether they managed to escape as all the roads out of the city are either blocked or under siege.

One civilian family told Amnesty International their brother had been injured on Tuesday night by a Taliban rocket attack, but they haven’t been able to take him to hospital because of the heavy fighting. Meanwhile the family has run out of food and the shops are all closed.

Displacement crisis

The fresh fighting has also sparked another wave of civilians fleeing Kunduz, adding to some 1.2 million internally displaced people already in dire need of humanitarian assistance across the country. According to the Governor’s Office in neighbouring Takhar province, thousands of civilians who fled Kunduz have poured into the province in the past two days and the government will do what it can to assist them, but there is a severe lack of resources.

A major international donor conference wrapped up in Brussels on 5 October, with US$15.2 billion in new pledges of aid over the next four years. But part of the deal hinged on the Afghan government accepting asylum seekers returned from the European Union.

“Fifteen years into the current Afghan conflict, more than a million internally displaced people and thousands of civilians currently under attack in Kunduz and elsewhere are in dire need of this increased humanitarian aid. International assistance should be granted on the basis of necessity rather than political expediency aimed at absolving EU governments of their obligation to asylum seekers,” said Champa Patel.