Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) strongly condemns the brazen armed robbery of one of our medical teams and the burning of two of our vehicles on the road outside of Yei, South Sudan, during the morning of 28 February 2022. Due to this incident, have had to immediately suspend our movements to support health facilities outside of Yei, undermining access to urgently needed medical care for tens of thousands of people.
“We are deeply shocked by this unacceptable attack on the provision of neutral and impartial humanitarian assistance for communities in need,” says Sandra Lamarque, MSF operational coordinator. “As a result of the attack, our outreach movements to communities surrounding Yei have been suspended until appropriate security conditions can be re-established which would permit us to safely continue our lifesaving work.”
At approximately 9:15am, seven staff wearing MSF identification and travelling in two clearly marked MSF vehicles were travelling to Minyori on the Yei-Maridi road. They were going to support treatment for malaria, pneumonia and diarrhoea – three of the leading causes of infant mortality in South Sudan.
Before they arrived, the medical team was stopped by a large group of armed men and forced at gunpoint to disembark from their vehicles. They were taken into the bush, where a group of civilians were also being held by the armed group. Our team were threatened and robbed of both MSF property and personal belongings.
We are deeply shocked by this unacceptable attack on the provision of neutral and impartial humanitarian assistance for communities in need.Sandra Lamarque, MSF operational coordinator
Following the incident, the team were released without physical injury, but the two MSF vehicles had been set ablaze, completely destroying them and forcing the team to evacuate to safety on foot. Medicines destined to support community healthcare workers with medical care were also stolen from the vehicles.
The incident occurred on a road which MSF teams have routinely travelled for several years in the course of our medical work. We operate in full transparency with all authorities and armed groups in the area, and in line with our principles of independence, neutrality and impartiality.
“MSF is one of the only medical organisations supporting several of the medical facilities in this area outside of Yei town,” says Lamarque. “When such attacks occur, it is the local people who suffer, as it severely compromises healthcare access for the communities.”
“We call on all armed groups to uphold their responsibilities under international humanitarian law and respect the provision of humanitarian assistance,” concludes Lemarque.
MSF is an independent, neutral and impartial humanitarian organisation, which has been working in South Sudan for more than 40 years. We have been providing medical assistance to communities in Yei and surrounding areas since 2016, supporting the paediatric ward of Yei Hospital, four primary health facilities, community-based medical care and emergency response.