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Yemen: Médecins sans Frontières forced to withdraw after death threats
Médecins Sans Frontières was forced to withdraw its team on Wednesday 31st July from Al-Salam Hospital in Khamer, Amran governorate, in the North of Yemen, after an escalation of violent attacks against its personnel and facilities.
Death threats against staff
The withdrawal took place after Médecins Sans Frontières staff received death threats related to a tribal dispute, but this was not an isolated incident. In the last 5 months Médecins Sans Frontières has registered 18 different incidences of violence against its team in Amran, including threats and physical assaults on doctors and staff, the ambushing and hijacking of vehicles and ambulances, and shootings at or around the hospital.
Médecins Sans Frontières is calling upon all actors in Yemen to respect the safety of medical facilities and personnel, and not to involve medical actors as bargaining tools in personal disputes, so that the provision of medical care is not affected. International and tribal laws should be respected, allowing hospitals to be safe havens, rather than using their presence in an area as an opportunity to claim resources or gain power.
Hospital caught up in disputes
“It is very difficult to provide essential medical care in this environment of continuous violence,” said Thierry Durand, Médecins Sans Frontières Head of Mission in Yemen.
“People are resorting to force, threats and blackmail to make their demands.
Médecins Sans Frontières and hospital facilities are being used as a means of pressure and leverage in these individual and family disputes, without concern for the impact on patients and their right to care.”
Medical services to resume
Following negotiations with local leaders, Médecins Sans Frontières will be resuming its medical and surgical services to the population of Khamer and Amran governorate.
“We call upon Yemeni authorities and tribal leaders to do their utmost to resolve disputes and to protect doctors, hospitals and the population in need, from further assaults,” Thierry Durand added.
Médecins Sans Frontières is running a global campaign to promote the protection of medical aid around the world.
In Yemen alone, Médecins Sans Frontières has registered 46 violence-related incidents against its staff and facilities since April 2010. In March 2013, Médecins Sans Frontières brought stakeholders together in a campaign on the protection of medical action in Yemen, in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health and Population, aimed at addressing the worrying levels of violence in and around healthcare facilities.
Médecins Sans Frontières has been working in Al-Salam Hospital since 2010, conducting an average of 500 emergency consultations a week and has performed more than 900 life saving surgeries since the beginning of 2013. The organization also has outreach activities in remote areas of Amran governorate.
Médecins Sans Frontières has been present in Yemen since 1986. In addition to its activities in Amran governorate, Médecins sans Frontières works in Aden, Al Dhale’, Abyan and Sanaa providing free of charge quality healthcare in areas of need.