Lorena Enebral Pérez (right) had worked with patients in Malawi, Ethiopia and Tanzania

Physical therapists pay tribute to Lorena Enebral Pérez

The world of physical therapy is mourning the death of Lorena Enebral Pérez, an amputee rehabilitation specialist who was shot and killed by a patient in Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan.

Ms Enebral Pérez, 38, was working with a 21-year-old polio patient at a Red Cross rehabilitation centre when he fired a single shot resulting in a chest wound. She was taken to the NATO military base hospital at Camp Marmal, but died from the injury.

The attacker had been receiving treatment at the centre since the age of two. He and another man, also a patient, have been arrested.

No motive is clear and no militant group active in Afghanistan has claimed responsibility, underscoring the dangers faced by physical therapists and humanitarian workers in conflict zones worldwide.

“The global physical therapy community sends our deepest condolences to the family of Lorena Enebral Pérez at this difficult time,” says WCPT Chief Executive Jonathon Kruger.

“Our thoughts are also with our partners at the International Committee of the Red Cross, who continue their important work in Afghanistan following the sudden and shocking loss of their friend and colleague.”

In an emotional statement from the ICRC Ms Enebral Pérez is remembered as “Energetic and full of laughter […] a skilled and caring physiotherapist who assisted patients – especially children.”

Ms Enebral Pérez, a Spanish national, had been working in Afghanistan since May 2016. She had previously worked with patients with disabilities in Malawi, Ethiopia and Tanzania.

“It is incomprehensible that a physical therapist could be shot and killed for simply doing her job,” says Jonathon Kruger. “However, the reality is that health workers face a high risk of violence all over the world.”

The risk of violence against health workers in Afghanistan has recently increased. In February six Red Cross staff members were killed by affiliates of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, in the north of the country.

The Red Cross has been active in Afghanistan for more than 30 years, providing lifesaving services in seven orthopedic centres across the country. They have emphasised the message of their public campaign designed to establish the neutrality of humanitarian workers in conflict zones.

“Our staff are humanitarian workers who seek only to improve the lives of victims of war,” the statement announcing Ms Pérez’s death said. “We are #NotATarget.”

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