News / Africa

Patients Killed in Beds, Health Care Destroyed in South Sudan - MSF

  • An infant scale lies broken amid patient records and medical supplies at Leer Hospital in Unity state, South Sudan. Doctors Without Borders says the hospital was vandalized something between the end of January and early February.
  • A vandalized operating table stands in Leer Hospital's surgical theater amid ransacked medical supplies.
  • An aerial shot taken over Leer in Unity state, South Sudan, shows many tukuls burnt to the ground.
  • MSF personnel found medical supplies strewn around Leer Hospital when they returned to assess damages. The hospital opened 25 years ago and served 300,000 people in South Sudan's Unity state.
  • A burnt, damaged operating table at Leer Hospital in Unity state.
  • A girl is treated for burns in the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) clinic set up at the camp for displaced people in the grounds of the United Nations Mission to South Sudan (UNMISS) base in Juba, South Sudan, on January 12, 2014.
Hospital Looted in South Sudan
Mugume Davis Rwakaringi

Scores of people have been killed in hospitals in South Sudan since the country plunged into conflict in December, and attacks on medical facilities have helped to crush the already fragile health care system, medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said Tuesday.

"Patients have been shot in their beds, medical and humanitarian staff have been killed, and hospitals, ambulances and medical equipment have been burnt, looted and otherwise destroyed," MSF said in a report entitled South Sudan Conflict: Violence Against Healthcare.

"An already fragile healthcare system has been destroyed in areas affected by conflict and largely neglected in other areas, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without medical care at a time when it is critically needed," the report says.

Patients, including women and children, were shot in their hospital beds, and medical and humanitarian staff were killed, MSF said.

Raphael Gorgeu, the MSF head of mission in South Sudan, listed the total fatalities: 25 of the people killed in attacks on hospitals were patients, 27 were people seeking shelter in the hospitals, two of them were ministry of health staff and 4 were unidentified people.

Devastating impact

He said the attacks have had devastating consequences on local populations.

"Hundreds of thousands of people became cut off from health care at a time they actually needed it most," Gorgeu said.

"One health facility destroyed, one ambulance burned, one health worker killed means no access to health care for thousands of people,” he said.

MSF project coordinator in Unity State Sarah Maynard said entire buildings in the town of Leer were reduced to ash and rubble, and life-saving surgical equipment was destroyed in an attack in January.

MSF staff were pulled out of Leer after the attack, and when they returned in May, Maynard said she was shocked to see the extent of the destruction.

“One of the things that really struck me the most was the absence of life and movement," she said.

"I had never seen a hospital without patients in it, with no staff, no noise -- not even babies crying," she said.

Before the attack, the MSF health facility in Leer provided preventive care and treatment for chronic diseases like HIV and tuberculosis to more than a quarter of a million people.

The patients kept on coming, desperate for our help, and although we had no delivery beds, the mothers were coming and giving birth on the floor because they wanted to be close to the medical teams...

Months afterwards, when MSF returned to Leer, people in the town were desperate for medical attention, Maynard said.

MSF did what it could to help them, often working in deplorable conditions.

"We had no power and no water," Maynard said.

"The patients kept on coming, desperate for our help, and although we had no delivery beds, the mothers were coming and giving birth on the floor because they wanted to be close to the medical teams, at least,” she said.

Malnourished children

Maynard said she was also overwhelmed by the number of malnourished children she and MSF staff treated during their first week back in Leer.

“We started a feeding program for severely malnourished children under five. Hundreds of mothers were bringing their kids for weighing and measuring and I remember thinking in the first week that maybe we will admit 500 children in the program. In the end, it was 900,” she said.

Gorgeu said both government and opposition leaders have assured MSF that the violence against health care facilities and staff will stop, but there was little evidence that those promises are being kept.

“We do have, at the highest level from all sides, positive messages when it comes to protection for health care, protection of MSF. But the difficulty is that these messages are not always translated into reality in the field,” he said.

Government health officials were tied up in a meetings and were unavailable for comment about the MSF report.


You May Like

Syrian Rebels Poised for Anti-Russia Collaboration

Forty-one insurgent groups issue joint statement vowing retaliation for Russian air offensives More

Political Maneuver Revives Export-Import Bank's Chances

Parliamentary tactic gets bill out of committee, but it faces opposition in the Senate More

Beijing Warns US on S. China Sea Patrols

Warning follows news reports Thursday that US military is planning to sail warships close to artificial islands Beijing has been aggressively building More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs