Fighting forces MSF team to evacuate from Muhajariya, Darfur

Yesterday afternoon (9 October), the medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) had to evacuate a team of 16 aid workers from Muhajariya in South Darfur following an intensive attack on the town.

Shooting was first heard in Muhajariya at the morning of 8 October.  By 1 pm it had intensified and patients started to flee the hospital. The MSF team had to shelter in their compound while shooting and mortar-fire continued in the town. One person reached the MSF compound and was treated for a gunshot wound. There are unconfirmed reports that two Sudanese staff members were killed in the attacks. Other staff members fled in an attempt to get their families to safety.

Yesterday morning, shooting started again in the market area. When the team reached the hospital in the morning, it was completely deserted. Houses and huts in the neighbourhood were also emptying as people gathered their possessions together.

Prior to the attack, there were 43 people admitted in the hospital, including pregnant women about to deliver; fifteen children with severe pneumonia; and malnourished children in the Feeding Centre.

There are also an estimated 39 wounded people amongst the thousands seeking refuge at the outskirts of Muhajariya and further out.  MSF medical teams attempted to set up a small treatment centre including the care of wounded, but with the on-going fighting and rumours of more attacks, it is too dangerous to keep a medical team on the ground.

Since MSF runs the only hospital in the town, the evacuation of the MSF team means that people are urgently in need of medical care. MSF hopes to be able to return to the area as soon as possible to provide medical assistance.

Since July 2004, MSF has been providing humanitarian medical assistance to the resident population and successive waves of displaced people in Muhajariya. With an average of 4,000 consultations a month this year, the hospital provides care for patients suffering from diarrhoea and respiratory infections; ante and postnatal services for women; emergency surgery; and a nutrition programme for children for a population of 70,000 people. Today, Darfur is one of MSF's largest missions with 120 international and more than 1,800 national staff working throughout an area the size of France.