MSF Suspends Operations in Akuem, Southern Sudan, Following Bombings

New York/Paris, 2 August 2000 — Following the bombing of the village of Akuem in southern Sudan by governmental forces, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been forced to suspend its activities in this area (north of Bahr el Ghazal). The center of Akuem consists of approximately 100 residences and a dispensary around an airstrip.

On July 28, 2000, an aircraft dropped three bombs that landed about 200 yards from the runway where an MSF plane was situated. Thirty minutes later the same aircraft returned to the vicinity and released another three bombs, which landed 500 yards from the health center. The center was clearly identifiable by a large MSF flag.

Immediately after the bombardments, the MSF medical team evacuated from Akuem.

On July 27 and 28, three other villages (Billing, Malual Kon, Yangshiek) where humanitarian aircraft were based came under aerial attack.

Since 1999, MSF has run a medical-nutritional program in Akuem, aiding a population of at least 20,000 inhabitants and treating children suffering from severe malnutrition. Food insecurity is among the most serious problems in this region. MSF nurses and doctors are also concerned about widespread malaria in the area and the risk of tetanus for the many injured patients they have treated. In recent weeks, 1300 displaced persons who have fled from the intensified fighting in the region have arrived in Akuem.

MSF is deeply concerned that its humanitarian aid and transport planes are becoming targets of bombardments. The only method to dispatch aid in southern Sudan is by air. The resurgence of hostilities has caused population displacements in Bahr el Ghazal and the Western Upper Nile regions. If access to these areas remains impossible, there will be extremely serious consequences for the civil population in the coming weeks.