On Saturday, 25 December, the emergency call centre of the humanitarian medical organisation Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) received a call related to a wounded person in need of urgent assistance in the Tinto health area. One of our ambulances managed to pick the patient up the next morning at Ashum area. Given his severe condition, he had to be transferred to Mutengene via Kumba for surgical attention.
As agreed and regularly done, MSF had contacted the local military authorities beforehand, and informed them about the transfer of a wounded patient to Mutengene. The ambulance was however stopped by Cameroonian security forces at the Nguti check point and forced to return to Mamfe, where the patient had to be treated and stabilised.
Since then, to avoid further incidents with our ambulances, we have been in touch with the authorities to understand the reason for the miscommunication with this reference.
Regarding this incident and the allegations published in some media, MSF reminds all relevant parties that:
1. In our work in Cameroon, and elsewhere in the world, MSF treats people based on medical need, regardless of their background or affiliations. This impartial and neutral medical humanitarian work is notably protected by the Geneva Conventions, which specify that persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.
2. Hindering and obstructing our work puts patients’ lives at risk.
3. Allegations of complicity with any actor in a conflict puts patients and MSF staff in grave and immediate danger.
4. We appeal to everyone to be responsible in their statements and publications relating to our humanitarian action in the country. In an already very sensitive context, the spread of information that damages our reputation as a neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian organisation puts the lives of our teams and patients in danger.
MSF has been working in Cameroon since 1984. Today, we implement healthcare projects in the Far North, South-West and in Yaoundé, supporting access to healthcare in communities and hospitals, providing surgical care, malaria treatment, treatment for COVID-19 and health promotion. In 2020, we treated more than one million patients in Cameroon. In December 2020, MSF activities were suspended by the authorities in the North-West region and we are still in dialogue with them to restart our medical support. MSF has currently dispatched medical teams to Ekondo-Titi and Bakassi health districts in the Southwest region of Cameroon where a cholera epidemic has been raging.