Afghan Civilian War Injuries Double in Kandahar Conflict

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The Guardian/UK

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

Peter Beaumont

Victims in hospital after an explosion at a wedding in Kandahar. (Photograph: Nosrait Shoaib/AFP/Getty Images)

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.

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.

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.

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

A second consequence of the increasing violence and
instability, according to the Red Cross, has been the inability of local
people to reach healthcare centres, often with devastating

Stocker said the number of people suffering as an
indirect result of the conflict far outnumbered those with gunshot and
bomb injuries.

"Our greatest challenge consists in maintaining
access to the areas hardest hit by the fighting, but the increase in the
number of armed groups is making this much harder for us," Stocker

"The result is that children die from tetanus, measles and
tuberculosis – easily prevented with vaccines – while women die in
childbirth and otherwise strong men succumb to simple infections."

forces reported a typical incident around Kandahar this week when a
joint US-Afghan patrol came under attack in the Zharay district and
called in aircraft to retaliate.

Several hours later a man brought
an injured child to a nearby forward operating base, indicating the
child's wounds were from a mortar strike that day. Two civilians were
reported to have been killed in the air strike.

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