MSF Condemns Attack on Protection of Civilians Site in Malakal, South Sudan


JUBA, SOUTH SUDAN/NEW YORK—The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) strongly condemns the February 17 and 18 attack on the protection of civilians (PoC) site in Malakal, South Sudan, as a horrifying act of brutality in a conflict already marked by utter disregard for the lives of vulnerable civilians.

During the fighting, armed actors carried out the widespread and intentional destruction of shelters and humanitarian services in the camp. MSF has confirmed that at least 19 people were killed, including two South Sudanese MSF staff members. An MSF hospital in Malakal treated 108 injured people, including 46 with gunshot wounds.

Read More: MSF Treats 73 Wounded in Malakal Fighting

According to multiple, factually consistent reports received by MSF, one of the MSF staff members was killed while trying to provide medical assistance to people wounded in the fighting. MSF has received further reports that other people who tried to put out fires or help the wounded were deliberately targeted and shot.

"This brazen violence and terrorization of civilians must not continue," said Raquel Ayora, MSF director of operations. "We are heartbroken and devastated by the senseless killing of our two colleagues. The protection of civilians and provision of humanitarian assistance can only be attained with a change of course in the conduct of hostilities by all parties to the conflict. All of those with power to prevent this from continuing should take action to protect human life."

Prior to the attack, the camp already sheltered 47,000 displaced people in overcrowded, substandard conditions on the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS) base, which led to outbreaks of disease. Many of those who remain are left with nothing, staying in areas that are not equipped for human habitation.

"People are terrified, gathering as close as they can to the areas in the camp perceived to be most safe," Ayora said. "The dire situation and the medical needs of the population will continue to worsen unless their security and protection are assured, in conjunction with rapid improvement of the conditions in the camp."

The population now has access to only about 10 liters of water per person per day, little or no shelter, and inadequate sanitation services. In the MSF hospital, medical teams are treating patients for diseases associated with these harsh living conditions, including respiratory tract infections, diarrhea, and malaria.

A further 4,500 people formerly sheltering in the Malakal PoC have now relocated to Malakal town, where there is very little access to any humanitarian assistance.

MSF strongly condemns the unacceptable violence and calls for the sustained and meaningful protection of civilians by the belligerent parties.

A team of 12 international staff and over 100 South Sudanese staff are working in the MSF hospital, providing urgent medical assistance. MSF operates 17 medical projects across South Sudan, providing assistance to whoever needs it most regardless of race, political affiliation, or ethnicity. In 2015, MSF provided medical care to more than 800,000 people in South Sudan.

Further Reading

"Even War Has Rules": Remarks On Kunduz By Deane Marchbein And Jason Cone In Washington, DC

Protection of Medical Services Under International Humanitarian Law: A Primer

Foreign Policy: Across the Middle East, Doctors Are Being Killed Like Never Before (Registration required)

Op-Ed: The UN Security Council Must Do More to Protect Syrian Civilians

WNYC's Here's the Thing: MSF's Joanne Liu Still Believes War Has Rules

New York Times: As Bombs Hit Syrian Hospitals, Medical Workers Fear They Are the Target

Medical Care Under Fire: International Law in Times of Conflict (Webcast)


Malakal: MSF teams in Malakal worked through the nights of Wednesday and Thursday to deal with injured patients after fighting erupted in the Protection of Civilians (PoC) site on Wednesday that resulted in 18 people dead, two of them MSF South Sudanese staff members. Seventy-three patients have been admitted so far to the hospital, 46 of them with gunshot wounds. One of MSF’s main concerns is the fate of 43,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) who took shelter in the UNMISS compound. They have been squeezed into a very tight area and access to water and sanitation is of real concern. MSF does not know how long they will be permitted to remain in the facility.