Authorities set new conditions for humanitarian work Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) announced today that it has suspended its emergency activities in Saada governorate in Yemen as of Sept. 26. On Sept. 15, the Executive Council in charge of humanitarian affairs in Saada announced new conditions under which all humanitarian and nongovernmental organizations must work in this region. These new conditions include an end to all independent assessments of medical needs within the governorate, a ban on international staff supervising activities and the obligation to replace all Ministry of Health staff working with MSF with staff proposed by the Executive Council, among others measures.
“These new conditions would greatly affect our possibility to guarantee the quality and effectiveness of our work”, says Vipul Chowdhary, a medical doctor and MSF representative in Yemen. “We had no choice but to suspend our activities.” In Al Talh and Razeh, MSF was supporting two Ministry of Health hospitals covering a catchment area of almost 400,000 people. Staff in Al Talh were providing secondary healthcare, including surgical services. In Razeh, MSF provided primary and emergency healthcare, nutritional recovery and maternity. The organization is currently willing to engage in discussions with local authorities to define acceptable conditions in which to run independent humanitarian activities. “We hope to find a common ground with local authorities in order to restore previous conditions which have allowed us to provide valuable medical services for the past four years. MSF is willing to continue its medical emergency activities for the sake of the population,” says Chowdhary.
MSF has been running medical activities in war-torn Saada governorate since 2007. After the ceasefire of February 2010 ended hostilities between the Yemeni government and the forces of Al Houthi, MSF was able to restart and develop its activities in several areas of the governorate. In the first six months of 2011, almost 20,000 outpatient consultations were provided in Al Talh hospital, with an average of 30 emergency consultations each day. Between February and August 2011, MSF teams performed 428 surgical interventions. MSF has also been running primary healthcare activities, including prenatal care for pregnant women and malnutrition screening for children, in Al Talh and Razeh hospitals and in four health units in Saada governorate. MSF activities in Al Talh and Razeh were suspended on September 21 and 26 respectively. MSF is a private international association, providing humanitarian medical relief in more than 65 countries around the world. MSF does not accept funding from any government for its work in Yemen and relies solely on private donations.