Afghan clinics reopening days after Taliban forced closure

Forty-two health facilities in Wardak province were closed after the Taliban threatened its staff to halt operations.

The temporary closure of the health facilities endangered the 'lives of thousands of people', the SCA said [Rahmat Gul/AP]

A Swedish charity running health facilities in central Afghanistan has said that staff at its centres offering 24-hour services have begun returning to work, almost a week after the Taliban forced the closure of dozens of the organisation’s clinics.

The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA) said on Wednesday that 42 out of its 77 health centres in Maidan Wardak province had been shut since Saturday after the Taliban threatened its staff, saying that they must halt operations or “face consequences”.

The Taliban move followed a deadly raid early last week by Afghan special forces on an SCA hospital in Tangi Syedan, Daimirdad district, an area that is under Taliban control.

“Local Taliban leaders informed us [the SCA] to reopen all health facilities,” Khalid Fahim, SCA programme director, told Al Jazeera on Friday.

“The staff members of the clinics offering 24-hour services will resume their duties today [Friday]. Full re-opening will be in effect on Saturday,” he added, referring to the first day of the working week.

The Taliban also confirmed the reopening of the health facilities on Friday, a day after the group said it would hold talks with the charity’s representatives.

“This [the reopening] happened after problems were identified and solved. The SCA has promised to provide safety to its staff members and patients, as it happened several times before when their clinics came under attack by the US and Afghan security forces that resulted in several deaths. But the NGO does not condemn or demand investigation into such attacks,” the Taliban said in a statement on Friday.

Five people, including two doctors and two patients, were killed in the overnight raid at the SCA hospital in Tangi Syedan. Security forces also arrested a doctor working at the hospital.

Human Rights Watch called for an investigation into the incident and for those responsible to be prosecuted. 

On Thursday, the SCA appealed for the immediate reopening of their health facilities, saying the closures were endangering the “lives of thousands of people”.

The non-profit group also held a press conference in the capital, Kabul, where they called on the Afghan government to impartially investigate the raid on the hospital.

Source: Al Jazeera