One of the largest medical charities in the world is pulling its staff out of a region devastated by war and conflict, abandoning hundreds of thousands of people and rendering them absolutely helpless.
The reason behind its decision is pretty straightforward: It cannot guarantee the safety of its doctors from “indiscriminate bombings.” The continuous airstrikes have left the organization with no other option.
Doctors Without Borders, also known as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), has been forced to evacuate six hospitals in volatile northern Yemen after the Saudi-led military coalition dropped bombs on Abs hospital in Hajjah Governorate earlier this week.
The attack killed 19 people, including one MSF staff member.
“Given the intensity of the current offensive and [Doctors Without Borders]’s loss of confidence in the coalition’s ability to avoid such fatal attacks, [Doctors Without Borders] considers the hospitals in Saada and Hajjah governorates to be unsafe for both patients and staff,” the group said in a statement. “The decision to evacuate the staff, who include obstetricians, pediatricians, surgeons and emergency room specialists, was not taken lightly, but in the absence of credible assurances that parties to the conflict will respect the protected status of medical facilities, medical workers and patients, there may be no other option.”
The humanitarian group added that it is neither satisfied nor reassured by the U.S.-backed and Saudi-led coalition's statement that this attack was a mistake.
The attack on Abs Hospital was the fourth against MSF-run hospitals in northern Yemen.
Since the Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen conflict in March 2015, airstrikes and ground operations have killed over 6,400 people — over half of them civilians. The total number of causalities from the recent airstrikes is still unknown.
Meanwhile, the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen, which is responsible for the aerial bombings, has expressed “deep regret” over the decision.
“The coalition to support the legitimacy in Yemen expressed its deep regret over MSF's decision to evacuate its staff from six hospitals in northern Yemen,” the coalition said in a statement, adding that it was seeking an urgent meeting with the aid group. “[It] asserts its appreciation for the work the group is undertaking with the Yemeni people in these difficult circumstances.”
The coalition, which has repeatedly said that it is upholding international humanitarian law and not deliberately targeting civilians, has also set up an independent team to investigate the incidents with civilian casualties.
The withdrawal of MSF medical staff will leave northern Yemen in an even more dreadful humanitarian situation than it is currently in.