Protection and neutrality of medical facilities must be upheld

Aden, 20 June 2012 — Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) expresses deep concern about the security of its surgical centre in Aden after a group of armed men forcibly entered the hospital on Monday night and attempted to take away a patient who was being treated in the emergency room.

MSF staff tried its best to ensure medical care and protection of the patient. However, these threats to the medical staff and to the functioning of the hospital has forced MSF to temporarily suspend its activities in the region until official reassurance that these events represent an unfortunate but isolated incident can be given.

The incident is a flagrant breach of the guarantee of safe treatment for all patients within MSF medical facilities. MSF has a strict no-weapons policy in all its health facilities and considers this latest incident a violation of the laws and agreements regarding the respect of hospital structures and medical missions.

Since April this year, MSF has been running an emergency surgical referral centre located inside the Al-Wahda hospital complex in Aden. Over 200 patients have received free medical care in the past two months. Eighty per cent of these patients, including women and children, have been admitted with violence related trauma, mainly due to gunshot injuries and burns caused by bomb blasts. MSF carries out an average of seven lifesaving operations each day. Around half of the patients come from Aden and most of the others are referred from the towns of Jaar and Lawdar in the neighboring governorate of Abyan. Patients are admitted regardless of their political or religious affiliations.

MSF has decided to suspend its activities in the surgical centre for three days in order to assess the security implications of the incident and to gain assurances from community leaders and local authorities that this will not happen again. MSF calls on all parties in Yemen to adhere to the principles of international humanitarian law and universal medical ethics that call for the respect and protection of healthcare facilities and their personnel. 

MSF has been working in Yemen since 1986 and continuously since 2007. In addition to the governorates of Aden, Abyan, Ad-Dhali and Al-Baydha, the organisation conducts surgical and medical activities in the governorates of Amran and Hajjah in the north of the country. In Yemen, MSF does not accept funding form any government and chooses to rely solely on private donations.