Just hours after a horrific act of terrorism in Kabul, mom Feroza Omar offered to breastfeed babies left motherless after the attack—and other mothers from around the city soon joined the efforts.

By Libby Ryan
May 15, 2020
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KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - MAY 13: An Afghan mother feeds a newborn baby who survived recently from the gunmen attack on MSF hospital, at the Ataturk Hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, on May 13, 2020.
Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

After a terrorist attack on a maternity ward hospital in Afghanistan, one mother came to the hospital to offer to breastfeed newborns whose own mothers were killed or injured in the violent attack.

Just hours after gunmen opened fire in a maternity unit in the Dasht-e-Barchi hospital in Kabul hospital, run by Médecins Sans Frontières, or Doctors Without Borders (MSF), Feroza Omar, mother to her own 14-month-old baby, offered to breastfeed the newborns evacuated from the site. Twenty-four mothers, children, and hospital staff were killed during an hours-long attack, but 20 babies survived and were sent to a nearby hospital for treatment. Eighteen of them were left without mothers, according to Wahid Majrooh, M.D., M.A., the Afghan deputy minister of health. Omar, seeing the devastation, leapt into action, offered to breastfeed the babies in need, and called for other women to join her.

“All of us have been damaged by criminals who are destroying humanity in Afghanistan. I am one of those,” Omar told Afghan news outlet Tolo News. A photo of her generous act went viral across social media and inspired women around the city to offer to give their own breastmilk to the newborns who survived the attack. One woman even told the news outlet she was prepared to adopt one of the babies whose mother was killed.

Authorities say it's unclear why the maternity ward was targeted by the terrorists, and no major terrorist group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. The hospital attack has been called a war crime by various aid groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

"MSF condemns this senseless act of cowardly violence, which took the lives of many people and deprived women and children in Kabul of a fundamental health care service, in a context where access to essential care is already limited," MSF said in a press release, mourning the loss of its patients and a colleague at the hospital. "For now, with so much uncertainty, every effort is being made by our medical team to follow up on the newborns in the maternity unit, ensure the best possible care to our patients and those injured, provide psychological care to those affected and give all necessary support to those bereaved."

One hundred people were evacuated from the hospital, including the babies who survived the attack—one carried out of the hospital by a member of Afghan special forces, whose heroic efforts were caught on video.

And another baby's life began during the attack. According to MSF, "Whilst fighting was on-going, one woman gave birth to her baby. Both are doing well."

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