MSF Condemns Large Scale Attacks on Civilians in South Sudan

Hundreds Of Deaths Reported; MSF Facilities Burned And Looted

MSF treated more than 100 people, including many women and children who'd been shot, in the South Sudan town of Pieri following a brutal rampage in Jonglei State last week.

JUBA/NAIROBI, August 23, 2011 – The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has treated over 100 people in the South Sudanese town of Pieri following a raid there and in twelve surrounding villages in Jonglei State last week. Many of the injured were women and children suffering from gunshot wounds.

Several hundred people—including women and children—are believed to have been killed in last Thursday’s dawn attack. Hundreds more are reportedly wounded. While the numbers of deaths and wounded are difficult to confirm, villagers have reported to MSF that over 400 people have been killed in Pieri alone, and almost half of the houses in the town have been destroyed. MSF referred 57 injured people to its other medical facilities in Jonglei State, the majority of whom were women and children who had been shot.

At least one MSF South Sudanese staff member is confirmed to have been killed, along with all the members of her household. Another staff member reported that he buried 16 members of his family. Seventeen MSF South Sudanese staff members remain unaccounted for. The MSF compound and clinic were also targeted by raiders, who looted medical equipment, drugs, and other valuable items, and burned down parts of the MSF facilities.

“We condemn this attack on our medical facilities and the killing of our staff in the strongest terms,” said MSF Head of Mission Jose Hulsenbek. “This is totally unacceptable. Medical facilities should always be respected as places of neutrality, where patients and medical staff should have no fear of attack. It is difficult to imagine the scale of this attack—this is so huge and we are still trying to assess all the casualties, the wounded, and the damage,” she said. “The South Sudanese authorities, the international community, and other aid organizations should quickly step in to assist the victims of these large scale killings.”

Vital water points were also destroyed and most villagers are spending the night in the bush for fear of new attacks.

In addition to the assistance MSF is already providing, there is an urgent need for shelter materials, food assistance, and drinking water. MSF is also concerned about the situation in remote areas that haven’t yet been reached due to seasonal rains. “Authorities should step up their efforts to ensure the safety of the population,” said Hulsenbek.

MSF continues to send in relief items and additional medical teams and equipment to scale up its assistance in the region.