MSF suspends operations following aerial attacks

Press release, August 2, 2000 - Following aerial bombardments, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has suspended its operations in Akuem (South of Sudan). Following the bombing of the village of Akuem by governmental forces on July 28, 2000, MSF has been forced to suspend its activities in this area north of Bahr-El-Ghazal (South of Sudan). The centre of Akuem comprises of approximately 100 residences and a dispensary around an airstrip. An aircraft dropped three bombs which landed around 200 metres from the runway where an MSF plane used by MSF medical team, was situated. Thirty minutes later the same craft returned to the vicinity and released another three bombs which landed 500 metres from the health centre. The centre was clearly identifiable by a large MSF flag. Immediately after the bombardments, the MSF medical team evacuated from Akuem. On 27 and 28 July, three other villages (Billing, Malual Kon, Yangshiek) came under aerial attack. Aircraft participating in the transport of humanitarian aid were based in all three of these villages. Since 1999, MSF has run a medico-nutritional operation in Akuem, aiding a population of at least 20,000 inhabitants. Food insecurity is among the most serious problem in this region. Through their programme, MSF is treating children suffering from severe malnutrition. Malaria is rife in this area and tetanus is a significant preoccupation for our nurses and doctors caring for the numerous injured. In recent weeks, 1,300 displaced persons have arrived in Akuem, fleeing from the intensified fighting in the region. At present, it is of great concern to us that our transport aeroplanes, and humanitarian aid in general, are becoming the target of bombardments. The only method to dispatch aid in Southern Sudan is by air. The resurgence of hostilities has caused population displacements in Bahr-El-Ghazal and the Western Upper Nile. The impossibility for us to reach these zones risks having extremely serious consequences for the civil population in the coming weeks.