Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has made the difficult decision to close our projects—which were suspended in March— in Kumba and Mamfe, in the South-West region of Cameroon.
This closure will take effect on August 1, 2022, and will result in the termination of contracts of the majority of MSF’s staff. The closure follows the suspension of MSF activities in the region three months ago.
MSF has been working to secure the release of four colleagues who were unjustly detained in December 2021 and January 2022 while carrying out medical humanitarian activities in in the South-West region. While two of our four colleagues were conditionally released in May, two remain in prison, and all are set to face trial.
A small team will remain in the South-West region to support the release and resolution of the cases, as well as to continue dialogue with the authorities as MSF seeks to re-establish conditions that will enable our teams to carry out medical activities in a safe environment. MSF made this decision as are unable to indefinitely maintain our teams with no clear vision of when we may be able to restart our activities, or when our staff will be able to work without being prosecuted for providing medical assistance to those in need.
MSF will consider reviewing this decision following the trial and based on our exchanges with Cameroon’s government. We continue to seek to improve the humanitarian notification system, so that staff can hopefully return to their jobs in confidence that their lifesaving work will not put them at risk of legal prosecution. MSF remains hopeful that we will be able to find an understanding with the authorities that could enable MSF to support the local health system and deliver medical assistance to local people.
As an international medical humanitarian organization, MSF provides impartial medical support to every patient in need, in line with medical ethics and international humanitarian law.
For almost five years, South-West Cameroon has been impacted by violence between separatist armed groups and state armed forces. MSF provided free health care to people in the region until March 29, 2022, when we made the difficult decision to focus on obtaining the safe release of our colleagues. MSF has specified that, as a neutral and impartial medical organization, it has supported wounded patients from both sides of the conflict in South-West Cameroon, including those from the state armed forces. MSF always provides free medical to those who need it most, based solely on need.