Fighting in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz has forced many hospital staff to flee, officials said on Thursday, further jeopardising medical care for hundreds of people.
Street-to-street gun battles have continued for four days after Taliban fighters slipped past the city’s defences on Monday.
The fighting has forced as many as 10,000 people from their homes in Kunduz, the United Nations reported, with those who remain facing serious water, food and electricity shortages, as well as threats from the fighting.
Government troops, backed by US special forces and air raids, have repeatedly declared that they are in control of the city, but residents report that heavy fighting has forced many people to leave.
Among those fleeing the city are about 70 percent of the staff at the city’s main public hospital, which was hit by rockets and small arms fire, said Marzia Yaftali Salaam, a doctor.
The 200-bed public hospital is the main provider of medical care in Kunduz after a more advanced trauma centre run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) was destroyed by an American strike last year.
In the past three days, the hospital has been inundated by at least 210 patients, many of them civilians, including women and children, injured in the fighting, Salaam said.
“Many of the wounded had to be carried to clinics in surrounding districts and private clinics in the city,” she said. “If the situation remains the same, we may be forced to halt our services.”
People trapped in homes
During a lull in the fighting on Wednesday, nearly 50 casualties were rushed to the hospital in the span of a few hours, said Hameed Alam, head of the public health department in Kunduz.
The Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, are seeking to topple a Western-backed government in Kabul.
“There is fighting in every street and the situation is critical,” said Ismail Kawasi, a spokesman for the Public Health Ministry.
Additional medical supplies and personnel were positioned in neighbouring provinces, but they must wait for the fighting to subside before they can be flown to Kunduz, he said.
Al Jazeera’s Jennifer Glasse, reporting from Kabul, said: “The hospital under attack in Kunduz was the only major healthcare facility in the area.”
She added that the Taliban had entered the city from four directions.
“Civilians are scared to go out of their homes, even to their garden. They don’t know when the rockets will hit, the mortars will land. There are also bullets flying as well.”