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MSF marks one year since the killing of two colleagues in Tougan

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On 8 February, 2023, in northwestern Burkina Faso, gunmen fired on a clearly identified Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) vehicle a few kilometres from the town of Tougan. The team in the vehicle – three MSF staff members from Burkina Faso and one from Congo – was travelling from Dedougou to Tougan to give support and supplies to their colleagues, who were providing medical care to people in Tougan and the surrounding area.

Sadly, MSF driver Komon Dioma, 39, and MSF logistics supervisor, Souleymane Ouedraogo, 34, were fatally shot in the attack. Their two colleagues managed to escape on foot to Tougan.

One year after this tragedy, we pay tribute to Komon and Souleymane who were killed while delivering humanitarian aid. We share deep grief with their loved ones and colleagues.

The safety of our staff and patients is our top priority, so understanding what happened was essential to prevent future incidents and manage the risks that our teams face.

Our analysis revealed that members of a local faction in the Boucle du Mouhoun region affiliated to the Jama'at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) group attacked MSF’s vehicle and staff.

For several weeks prior to the incident, this armed group had blockaded the town of Tougan, cutting off the supply routes and isolating its inhabitants. This had increased the community’s need for assistance, making our humanitarian work there vital.

In Tougan, our teams were primarily providing general healthcare to people of all ages, as well as sexual and reproductive healthcare, and organising medical referrals to hospitals, including to Dédougou.

We also worked with about 30 community health workers outside the town to screen for child malnutrition, treat patients suffering from malaria and diarrhoea who did not have other complications, and refer those who needed further care to medical facilities. These activities were part of a project launched in partnership with health authorities in the Boucle du Mouhoun region in June 2021.

The killing of our colleagues took place against a backdrop of extreme and repeated violence against civilians, which has also affected medical and humanitarian aid workers trying to help them. Since 2019, the conflict between Burkina Faso’s army and security forces, and armed groups operating under the banner of Al Qaeda and the Islamic State group, has displaced two million people from their homes.

The number of people killed in political violence doubled in 2023 to nearly 8,000 people, according to the Armed Conflict Locations Events Database Hidden Field Civilians have been caught in the stranglehold of this spiral of violence.

MSF continues to provide medical care and support to local communities in Dedougou and other parts of the country. The introduction of new domestic flights by the United Nations Humanitarian Air Service allowed an MSF team to return to Tougan to assess the health situation at the end of 2023.

The community told us that they can no longer grow crops, and depend on military convoys and humanitarian aid for their supplies. We are currently assessing the possibility of providing further support to the Ministry of Health staff still on site, in collaboration with the health district, to bring medical and humanitarian aid to people affected by the ongoing siege.

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Press Release 9 February 2023