On July 31, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) was forced to withdraw from Al-Salam Hospital in Khamer, Amran governorate, northern Yemen, after violent attacks against its personnel and facilities.
MSF withdrew after staff received death threats related to a tribal dispute. This was not an isolated incident. In the last five months there have been 18 violent incidents in Amran, including threats and physical assaults against MSF staff, ambushing and hijacking of ambulances and other vehicles, and shootings at or around the hospital.
MSF is calling upon all actors in Yemen to respect medical facilities and personnel, 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 them to claim resources or power.
“It is very difficult to provide essential medical care in this environment of continuous violence,” said Thierry Durand, MSF head of mission in Yemen. “People are resorting to force, threats and blackmail. MSF and hospital facilities are being used as a means of pressure and leverage in individual and family disputes, without concern for the impact on patients and their right to care.”
Following negotiations with local leaders, MSF will resume 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,” Durand added.
MSF is campaigning for the protection of medical aid around the world. In Yemen alone, MSF has registered 46 violent incidents against its staff and facilities since April 2010. In March 2013, MSF brought stakeholders together to campaign for the protection of medical action in Yemen, in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health and Population.
MSF 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.
MSF has worked in Yemen since 1986. In addition to its activities in Amran governorate, MSF works in Aden, Al Dhale, Abyan and Sanaa providing free, quality healthcare in areas of need.
MSF’s work in Yemen is funded by private donors from all over the world. MSF does not use funds from governments, religious organizations or international agencies for its work in Yemen.