Access to care threatened Patients at a surgical hospital in Aden, Yemen had to be evacuated and staff were forced to shut down the facility following tensions and shooting that took place in and around the compound on Sept. 27, says Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).
“Two of our guards were beaten up and threatened at gun point while shots were fired from both sides of the hospital wall,” says MSF project coordinator, Anne Garella. “We were lucky that patients were not hurt but a person was injured and we provided him with emergency care. Tensions inside the hospital were very high and nobody was able to leave the premises for five hours." The attack on the hospital is the latest in a series of events that threaten the access to and security of the facility. In April this year, doctors in the same hospital were seriously threatened by patients. The following month, armed forces forcibly entered the building and attempted to take away a patient, and in July a shooting took place at the hospital gate. The 40-bed capacity hospital in Aden provides surgical care for emergency cases. More than 500 men, women and children have been treated since the hospital opened in April this year, including victims of landmines and armed violence. MSF has a strict no-weapons policy in all of the medical facilities where it operates. “We treat people of all social and political backgrounds based on humanitarian principals,” says Thomas Balivet, MSF head of mission. Despite MSF’s best efforts to guarantee the integrity of the facility, the latest attack underscores the dire need for local authorities and community leaders to take serious measures to prevent further attacks from happening again. “We have reached a point where we really need substantial commitments from local communities and authorities to ensure that the hospital and its close vicinity remain free of weapons,” says Balivet. Authorities both in Aden and Sana'a have ensured their support for the safe re-opening of the structure and the protection of medical staff and patients. MSF looks forward to a prompt resolution of this situation, negotiating with authorities to ensure that the wounded and sick receive the care they need without discrimination of any kind, and regardless of the reasons for their medical conditions. MSF has been working in Yemen since 1986 and continuously since 2007. In addition to the governorates of Aden, Ad-Dhali, and Abyan, the organization conducts surgical and medical activities in the governorates of Amran and Hajjah in the north of the country. In Yemen, MSF does not accept funding from any government and relies solely on private donations.