MSF patients and medical workers attacked in Kerfi, Chad

On Tuesday July 8, 2008, a Meacute;decins Sans Frontières (MSF) clinic in Kerfi, a small town in Eastern Chad, came under attack. Following this assault on patients, their families and MSF staff, the medical humanitarian aid agency has now withdrawn most of its staff from the area and suspended its medical activities there. MSF is deeply concerned about the situation in Kerfi, especially for its patients, including 200 malnourished children, who remain without adequate medical care. Dozens of young men rampaged through the health facility attacking anyone they came across, ransacking and destroying furniture, the pharmacy and consultation rooms. Patients, including severely malnourished children, were forced to flee. Their whereabouts and current condition are unknown at this time. Several MSF staff were severely beaten during the incident but did not sustain serious injuries. Violence continued in other parts of the town resulting in deaths and injuries to a yet unknown number of people. The motivation for the assault is still unclear. However, it seems that non-governmental organisations were intentionally targeted. "We are appalled and outraged that patients and medical staff have come under attack inside our medical facility," said Karline Kleijer, MSF Head of Mission in Chad. "This incident shows an unacceptable disrespect for humanitarian aid and medical facilities, and limits MSF's and other aid agencies' capacity to provide assistance to populations in eastern Chad. It also illustrates how the general lack of security in this area of Chad directly affects civilians." Following the attack, MSF treated several injured people including some of those that attacked the clinic. After the most seriously wounded had been taken care of, the MSF team left Kerfi by MSF car for Goz Beida, where the aid agency has another base. The remaining local staff are not adequately trained to keep medical services fully running. MSF's medical activities in Kerfi are currently suspended. MSF will analyse the incident and then take a decision as to when the team can go back to Kerfi and resume its medical emergency work. MSF is deeply concerned about the situation in Kerfi, especially about its patients who remain without adequate medical care. In the Kerfi health post MSF provides 24-hour medical care to villagers and displaced people, including a therapeutic feeding program for children and antenatal and postnatal care. The MSF team sees more than 3,000 patients per month and gives nutritional support to about 200 children. Patients are referred to Goz Beida hospital (supported by another NGO) if they need further treatment. More than 10,000 Chadian displaced people live in or around Kerfi, joining approx 8,000 original Chadian inhabitants.