Freetown/New York, June 8, 2000 — On the night of June 6th, the town of Kabala, with a population of 10,000 inhabitants and more than 2,000 recently displaced persons, was attacked by armed groups. A Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) team of 3 people (2 international staff and 1 Sierra Leonean surgeon) had to evacuate, together with the civilian population, to the surrounding bush.
This team was forced to leave behind 48 patients in a hospital supported by MSF, plus 107 malnourished children, among whom 13 were severely malnourished.
The next morning, the MSF team was able to return to Kabala town to check for these patients. They found only empty beds with IV bags and partially full blood bags hanging over the beds in the different wards of the hospital. The patients had all left to the bush for safety. This included 2 children with severe anemia that were receiving blood transfusions and 4 post-operative cases who could hardly walk. They had been carried to the bush by their parents and relatives.
The team was unable to remain in Kabala due to the threat of further attacks and evacuated by helicopter on the 7th of June. The MSF team brought with them 3 wounded people. They had to leave behind 68 health workers who were working at Kabala Hospital.
With the suspension of these MSF activities in Kabala, the entire northern district of Sierra Leone today has no functioning hospitals. Already, more than 6 hospitals and 250 health centers were out of service, leaving close to one million people without any access to health care.
MSF and the Sierra Leonean people are at a loss about the UN mandate in Sierra Leone. Is protecting the civilian population not one of the UN's major priorities and responsibilities? Even now, UNAMSIL is continuing to pull out its military team from Kabala. This decision to continue evacuating is putting the people of Kabala and the surrounding areas at risk.