News / Africa

MSF Suspends Work In South Sudan Oil Town

  • The city of Malakal rests on the bank of the White Nile River, South Sudan.
  • A South Sudan army soldier stands next to a machine gun mounted on a truck in Malakal on December 30, 2013 a few days after retaking the town from opposition forces.
  • A woman stands with her daughter 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.
  • A boy has an infected wound cleaned in the dressings tent of a 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.
  • A medic sits in the in-patient department of the 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.
  • 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 on January 12, 2014.
  • A boy who suffered severe burns to his leg is tended to by a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) doctor at the 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.

MSF Stops Operations in South Sudan Town

International medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said Friday it has suspended activities in the South Sudanese town of Malakal, after its compound was looted twice in one day.

“Armed men entered the MSF compound in Malakal twice yesterday, where they looted and physically threatened the team,”  Arjan Hehenkamp, MSF’s general director, said in a statement.

"We have no choice today but to suspend temporarily our activities in Malakal hospital. This leaves thousands of people without much needed surgical and general healthcare – a matter which is of huge concern to us,” he said.

MSF said large numbers of people have sought refuge at the hospital in Malakal, and more than 80 people were treated there for wounds sustained in fighting in the town on Thursday.

Days earlier, MSF said it treated more than 130 patients with gunshot wounds in Malakal and Nasir, a town in the southeast of Upper Nile state.

The capital of oil-rich Upper Nile state, Malakal has changed hands several times since violence erupted in South Sudan on Dec. 15, in what President Salva Kiir has said was a failed attempt by former Vice President Riek Machar to oust him.

Opposition forces said Tuesday they had recaptured Malakal, but the government swiftly denied the claim.

On Friday, a source in Malakal, who asked not to be named for security reasons, told VOA News that "anti-government forces" have been "in full control" of the town since Tuesday and were moving toward the oil-producing areas of Melut and Paloug.

It was impossible to independently confirm his report.

Eighty-five percent of South Sudan's oil -- the backbone of the young country's economy -- comes from Upper Nile, with the remainder coming from Unity state, where the capital, Bentiu, has also seen fierce battles for control.

The MSF compound in Bentiu was looted a week ago, the medical aid group said.
A top United Nations official told reporters in Juba Friday that the capital of Unity state has been completely destroyed in fighting between government and opposition forces.

MSF and the U.N. have said people are fleeing Malakal in their droves. Some 20,000 have sought shelter at the U.N. compound in the town, MSF said.

MSF has been working in the Malakal region since 2002, three years before the long war between northern and southern Sudan ended with the signing of a comprehensive peace agreement. South Sudan became an independent state in 2011, six years after the signing of the peace deal.

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