Yemen: Death Toll Rises to 19 in Airstrike on MSF-Supported Hospital

Three more patients wounded in yesterday’s airstrike on a hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in northwestern Yemen died last night, raising the death toll to 14 people, the organization said today. [Aug. 17 update: the death toll now stands at 19; more information to come.]

As reported yesterday, one MSF staff member died of injuries in the blast, Abdul Kareem al Hakeemi.

MSF knows of 24 people injured in the airstrike who were referred to different health facilities in the area. MSF is tracking them to monitor their condition.

This is the fourth attack against an MSF-supported facility in Yemen in the last year.

“After each attack MSF receives reassurances from the actors in the conflict with promises that this will not happen again,” said Teresa Sancristóval, MSF emergency program manager. “We do not want words, courtesies, promises which go undelivered. What we need to see is proof of intent and a commitment that there will be no more airstrikes on medical facilities, staff and patients.” 

“This new incident shows that there are no effective measures in place to ensure that hospitals are not another casualty of war,” Sancristóval continued. “MSF has shared the coordinates and information related to all its facilities in Yemen with all parties to the conflict, yet we have been hit four times. If the current military protocols are leading to ‘mistakes’ then those protocols have to be changed because they are destroying fully functioning medical facilities, staff, and patients.”

At the time of the airstrike, Abs Hospital was full of patients recovering from surgery, patients in the maternity ward, newborns and children in the pediatric ward. MSF has now evacuated all patients and staff from the facility.

“With the closure of this once fully functioning hospital that served the whole area, the community is now deprived of essential medical services at a time when access to health care is most vital,” said Juan Prieto, MSF head of mission in Yemen.

MSF is surveying the damage and will launch its own investigation into the attack.

Abs Hospital was the main medical facility functioning in the western part of Hajjah governorate. The facility treated 4,611 patients since MSF began supporting the hospital in July 2015.The hospital had a 14-bed emergency room, a maternity unit and a surgical unit. In recent weeks the hospital had seen an increase in wounded patients, mostly victims of recent clashes and the aerial campaign in the area. At the moment of the strike, there were 23 patients in the surgery ward, 25 in the maternity ward, 13 newborns and 12 children in the pediatric ward. 

Patient being treated in the MSF-supported Abs Hospital following an attack on a marketplace on 15 March 2016 in Khamis district, northern Hajja governorate. Immediately following the attack the Abs Hospital, which is located 50km from Khamis, treated 44 people, 2 of whom died.