El Salvador: MSF condemns attack on medical staff in Ilopango

El Salvador 2019 © Alejandra Sandoval/MSF

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) condemns the attack on one of its ambulance teams in Reparto Las Cañas, Ilopango, El Salvador on January 31 by an armed group. As a medical humanitarian organization, MSF operates under the principles of neutrality, impartiality, and independence. MSF calls on armed groups to respect medical services.

The two ambulance team members—a doctor and a nurse assistant/driver—were detained in Reparto Las Cañas at 3:07 am on January 31 while on their way to respond to an urgent call. They were forced out of the vehicle, interrogated, threatened, and assaulted. After escaping from their assailants, they received medical attention for minor injuries and bruises and are receiving psychological care. MSF has suspended its medical activities in El Salvador until the causes of the incident are clear and the safety of MSF teams can be ensured.

“Despite the unusual nature of this incident, we have been forced to temporarily suspend our activities until the details of this violent event are clear,” says Luis Romero, MSF field coordinator in San Salvador. “We have not had security problems of this kind since starting work in El Salvador in 2018. Our teams must be able to work safely in order to reach the people who are most in need, wherever they are. This is why the medical mission must be respected by all."

Since 2018, MSF teams have been providing medical care, mental health care, social work, nursing services, and sexual and reproductive health care to communities in San Salvador and Soyapango. MSF's ambulance service works with the Medical Emergency System (SEM), responding to medical emergencies 24/7 throughout the municipalities of Soyapango and Ilopango, and in parts of San Martin, Tonacatepeque, and Ciudad Delgado which are commonly regarded as no-go areas because of widespread violence.