Emergency rejects Panjshir death toll, but ‘cannot’ provide exact numbers

Photo: Emergency NGO.

Italian NGO Emergency has accused an Afghan media outlet of sharing false data on the number of civilians killed in Panjshir in the past year but at the same time stated it was unable to provide the exact “number of patients” treated at its hospital in the province.

According to a statement issued by Emergency on Friday, “an Afghan media outlet shared false data concerning the number of patients received by EMERGENCY at the Anabah Surgical Centre, our hospital in the Panjshir Valley, which has for decades been a point of reference for the local population.”

The NGO stated that Emergency has been operating in Afghanistan since 1999 and has always based its work upon a fundamental principle: neutrality, because humanitarian interventions do not favor any side in conflict.

For 23 years, Emergency has remained in the country and continued its work guaranteeing healthcare to anyone in need, not excluding any member of the Afghan population. “Even after 15 August 2021, we remained in Afghanistan, continuing to provide important services,” the statement read.

“During these years, we have communicated what we have witnessed, but our priority has always been – and remains – the care and protection of our patients.

“All data concerning our hospitals are regularly disseminated exclusively on our official channels, or disclosed by official representatives of Emergency in Afghanistan,” read the statement.

On October 29, Amu, citing multiple sources, including a source from the Emergency hospital in Panjshir, reported that at least 172 civilians had been killed in clashes in the province in the past year.

According to the sources, at least 57 people were killed in Abdullah Khil valley, 38 in Hese Awal district, 31 in Bazarak, three in Abshar district, 22 in Rokha, 11 in Onaba and eight were killed in Paryan district.

Rossella Palma, from the public awareness department of the Emergency NGO, told Amu that the figures published by Amu are incorrect but due to the sensitivity of the issue, they cannot provide the exact number of civilian casualties in Panjshir.

She said she can provide statistics of the victims registered at the Emergency surgery centers in Lashkargah and Kabul, but that she cannot provide the figures for Anabah Surgery Center in Panjshir.

In response to Amu’s request to get the exact number of victims taken to Emergency surgery centers in Afghanistan, Palma referred Amu reporter to Emergency’s website.

On the emergency website, the last report from Panjshir was published more than a year ago.

The report, which was published on September 3, 2021, is from the first day that the Taliban entered the Panjshir valley.

It states that “the Taliban has reached Anabah region. So far, there has been no intervention in Emergency activities. We have received a small number of wounded people at Anaba surgery center.”

Emergency, which is the most important surgery center for war victims in Panjshir, has not published any other reports about victims in this valley since September 2021.

International observers, including Richard Bennett, the special rapporteur of the United Nations, have reported “massive violations of human rights” in Panjshir.

Emergency is an independent NGO founded in 1994 by an Italian surgeon named Gino Strada. The organization started its activities in Afghanistan in 1999 and besides surgical centers in Panjshir, Kabul and Lashkargah, it also has several small clinics in other provinces of Afghanistan.

Based on the official statistics published on the organization’s website, between 2009 and 2021, the organization treated more than 60,958 war victims in Afghanistan. This figure is more than 80% of all war victims recorded by UNAMA during this period.