MSF Teams Evacuated After Assaults on Staff in Darfur

Valérie Batselaere/MSF
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65,000 People in Tawila and Shangil Tobaya Left Without Medical Assistance

Khartoum/Barcelona, August 1, 2008 — The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been forced to evacuate its staff from Tawila and Shangil Tobaya in North Darfur, after a series of violent assaults against MSF staff. The suspension of activities leaves more than 65,000 civilians—the majority displaced people—without medical assistance. MSF strongly condemns these attacks and calls for the respect of humanitarian aid workers so they can continue providing much needed assistance to civilians.

Over the last week, MSF teams in Tawila and Shangil Tobaya were victims of two similar attacks. Groups of armed men entered the teams’ compounds at night, threatened the staff with their guns, and stole money, including salaries of local staff, along with other valuables. Staff were held at gun point and intimidated.

“After these violent attacks, we have had to suspend activities and evacuate all our staff from Tawila and Shangil Tobaya,” said Mónica Camacho, MSF head of mission in Darfur. “It was a difficult decision, because this suspension of activities leaves the people with no medical care. But it is impossible for our teams to work and provide medical aid without a minimum guarantee of security and respect for humanitarian work.”

In Tawila, MSF is the only medical organization providing medical care to more than 30,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) living in three camps, and to the civilian population of the surrounding rural area. In Shangil Tobaya, MSF provides a complete range of medical services—inpatient and outpatient care, nutritional programs, reproductive health care, treatment for victims of sexual violence and mental health activities—for 28,000 IDPs living in two camps and for an additional 5,000 people in surrounding villages.

This is not the first time that such incidents have occurred in the area. Over the last year, the MSF team in Tawila has been victim to three serious security incidents and was evacuated twice. In Shangil Tobaya, activities were suspended for several months in early 2007. When teams started working again, a new serious robbery took place in October.

MSF continues to provide humanitarian assistance in other projects in North, South, and West Darfur, with approximately 1,500 aid workers in the field.