Bor, South Sudan: Patients and family members killed inside MSF compound

Early yesterday morning (HK time: yesterday afternoon), four people were murdered and one injured inside a car of the medical humanitarian organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in Bor, South Sudan. Eight patients and family members, including a baby, had been evacuated from the hospital when tribal fighting broke out inside the facility. They were inside the MSF car in the organisation's compound across the road from the hospital when they were attacked by people pursuing them. Two adults and the baby escaped unharmed by hiding under the car's benches.

"This is an outrageous act and a serious breach of the safety that a hospital should provide," says Meinie Nicolai, Operational Director for MSF in Brussels and Board Member of MSF-Hong Kong. "Four people have died, one is injured, and three more narrowly escaped. This attack affects our ability to provide medical care in Bor hospital, which has an important regional role for referrals from all over Jonglei state."

MSF has been working in Bor since March, 2006 providing general health care in Bor hospital. On average, the team does 250 consultations and three surgical interventions a day.

The team of 17 staff are badly shaken by the violent events and most members are being flown out for counselling, including international staff sent by MSF-Hong Kong office. MSF hopes to keep a small team in Bor, in part by bringing in new staff, to minimise the interruption of directly lifesaving activities in the hospital.

At the time of the killings, MSF was treating 23 people who were brought in overnight with injuries sustained in clashes between tribes.

"From our compound and inside the hospital we treat everybody who needs medical care, and people from different tribes often lie side by side in the wards," adds Nicolai. "The disrespect shown by the people who chose to extend their fighting into the hospital and our compound is absolutely intolerable. We ask of all local and regional authorities that they do whatever is in their power to prevent any further breaches of the integrity of health facilities and the safety of patients and staff ."

MSF-Hong Kong has sent 16 field volunteers from Hong Kong and the Asian region to work in South Sudan, including medical doctors, surgeons, anaesthetists, laboratory technicians, logisticians and financial controllers, and six of them have been responsible for the mission in Bor.