A Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) medical compound was looted during fighting that began on the afternoon of Tuesday, February 23, in the town of Pibor, in South Sudan’s Jonglei State. The fighting, which continued into today, wounded at least 35 people and drove approximately 1,000 to seek shelter at the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) base in the area.
The team from MSF’s project in Pibor—which is one of the very few medical facilities in the area, and which has been looted on several occasions in recent years—took security precautions when they heard heavy gunfire approaching the facility. They first took shelter within the MSF compound but later had to move to the UNMISS compound as well.
MSF staff brought medical equipment and supplies with them, however, and they have been supporting the provision of medical treatment to the wounded within the UNMISS compound. As of the early afternoon hours of February 24, MSF was supporting treatment for 35 patients. Unfortunately, the lack of surgical capacity in the compound makes it impossible to provide the level of treatment that many patients need.
The violence destroyed a number of homes in Pibor. At present, though, with the fighting still going, MSF has been unable to assess the damage to its compound.
"There are critical emergency medical needs right now in Pibor and really limited capacity to respond and save lives," says Corinne Benazech, MSF Head of Mission. "We need to assess the damage and looting of the MSF health center, but if we cannot restart activities this could make a bad situation catastrophic, since MSF provides the only health care in the area. We reiterate the call that all armed actors must respect international humanitarian law, which protects civilians, medical facilities and the provision of humanitarian assistance."
The fighting in Pibor comes on top of fighting Malakal, in Upper Nile State, earlier this week during which gunmen attacked the UN's Protection of Civilians site, killed 18 people, including two MSF staff members, and wounded at least 73. Taken together, the events highlight the chaos affecting much of the country right now and the toll fighting takes on civilians and civilian targets.