Protection and neutrality of medical facilities in Yemen must be upheld

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) expresses deep concern about the security of its surgical center in Aden after a group of armed men forcibly entered the hospital on Monday night (18th/19th June) 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, following international laws and rules of hospitality that are highly valued by the Yemeni community. These threats to our personnel and to the functioning of the hospital force us today to temporarily suspend activities, seeking official clarification and reassurances that the events represent an unfortunate but isolated incident.

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 of the health facilities where it operates and considers this latest incident a violation of the laws and agreements regulating the respect of hospital structures and the medical mission.

Since April this year, MSF has been running an emergency surgical referral center located inside Al-Wahda Hospital complex in Aden. MSF has treated over 200 patients free-of-charge in the past two months. Eighty percent of patients have been admitted with violence-related trauma, including women and children, mainly due to gunshot injuries and burns caused by bomb blasts. MSF carries out an average of seven life-saving operations each day. Half of our patients come from Aden and most 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 seeks to work constructively with all sides to ensure that such incidents do not happen again. As an independent and impartial medical organisation, MSF is purely concerned about providing the best medical care possible for its patients.

MSF has decided to suspend its activities in the surgical center 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, as they treat patients equally regardless of race, religion, political or ethnic affiliation.

MSF is a private international humanitarian organisation providing emergency medical aid in more than 65 countries worldwide to populations that suffer from the effects of armed conflict, epidemics, malnutrition, exclusion from health care or natural disasters.

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.