An armed robbery occurred at an MSF clinic in Pibor, South Sudan, during the early morning hours on Thursday, 13 July. Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) strongly condemns the incident, which resulted in injuries to two team members and forced the organisation to relocate some staff. This follows an earlier incident in February 2016 when the clinic in Pibor was looted. MSF teams are shocked by these repeated security incidents, which strongly impede our ability to deliver urgently needed healthcare.
Early Thursday morning, at around 1:30 a.m., six to ten unidentified armed men broke into the facility and injured two staff members after threatening other team members with guns. Office equipment, including phones and computers, were stolen. Due to the violent nature of the attack, MSF decided to partially withdraw its teams to reassess the security situation in Pibor.
MSF strongly condemns this incident and the fact that robberies and lootings occur on a regular basis in Pibor and other areas of the country. This attack in Pibor is the latest in a series of events over the past six years that have forced MSF to reduce activities for periods of time, leaving patients with little access to healthcare. “MSF is the only organisation providing much needed specialized health care services such as basic surgery in the area of Pibor,” says Fernando Galvan, deputy head of mission for MSF in South Sudan. “This event forced us to evacuate part of our team and reduce our activities at a time when people are in desperate need of healthcare.”
The clinic in Pibor is a 37-bed medical facility where MSF manages the outpatient department, the inpatient ward, the maternity ward and the laboratory. On a monthly basis, MSF provides over 6,300 outpatient consultations in Pibor. In recent weeks, MSF has seen an increase in the number of patients coming to the clinic with acute malnutrition, and the teams have been working hard to provide assistance to people in need, in Pibor facility as well as in Likonguele and Gumuruk primary healthcare units. With the start of the rainy season, the area now also faces the growing risk of malaria.
MSF reiterates the call to all armed actors to respect international humanitarian law, which protects civilians, medical facilities and the provision of humanitarian assistance. “We are doing our best to provide essential medical care to people in Pibor who desperately need our assistance, but we need to be able to work in a safe environment. We also need our patients to feel safe when they come to the clinic. They should never have to worry about violent attacks happening within a medical facility. Hospitals must be safe places for patients and for medical workers providing them with healthcare,” says Galvan.