AMSTERDAM/BANGUI, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC—A staff member of the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) was shot and killed yesterday during an ambush on two MSF vehicles in Central African Republic (CAR), the organization said today, condemning the attack in the strongest possible terms.
A well-identified MSF convoy of two vehicles transporting staff members and patients was stopped by armed men in Kouki, 82 kilometers [about 51 miles] north of Bossangoa. The team was forced out of the vehicles and onto the ground and robbed of personal belongings and medication. The slain staff member, who was a driver, was shot and killed during this violent incident, which lasted more than 40 minutes.
"It is absolutely unacceptable that a team of medical workers and their patients were attacked while returning from providing lifesaving medical care," said Michelle Chouinard, MSF head of mission in CAR. "It is outrageous that one of our staff members was killed during this act of violence. The MSF team and their patients endured prolonged harassment, including bullets shot close to their heads and repeated verbal threats that they would be killed."
As a result of this act of violence, MSF has been forced to suspend activities in the area until it receives adequate guarantees for the safety of its staff and the acceptance of its medical and humanitarian activities.
"Humanitarian workers should be protected from harm while undertaking their mission in violence-affected areas," said Chouinard.
MSF is collecting information about the circumstances of the incident and will make no further comment until all details are confirmed. The organization expects a full inquiry by the local police and authorities, and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
MSF is shocked and deeply saddened by this serious security incident, and extends its sincere and heartfelt condolences to the family of the staff member who was killed.
MSF started providing free medical care in CAR in 1997, at a time when mortality rates in some regions were far above the threshold of a humanitarian emergency. In the years since, CAR has continued to face a situation of chronic and prolonged health emergency. The political crisis and renewed violence that have shaken the country since 2013 have exacerbated the health situation, leaving 72 percent of the country’s health facilities damaged or destroyed. In response to the recent crisis, MSF has doubled the size of its medical response, and now runs 17 projects across the country. Currently, one in five Central Africans are displaced from their homes, either within CAR or living as refugees in neighboring countries.