Médecins Sans Frontières facility in Yemen bombed in Saudi airstrike

The attack is the second airstrike in a month to affect a MSF field hospital. How will this affect their humanitarian efforts going forward?

Hani Mohammed/AP
A food storage warehouse destroyed by a Saudi-led airstrike in Sanaa, Yemen, Monday, Oct. 26, 2015. Yemen has been embroiled in fighting between Houthis and allied army units against forces loyal to the internationally recognized government as well as southern separatists and other militants.

Less than a month after a US airstrike in Kunduz, Afghanistan, hit a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) field hospital, the international medical organization has found itself the victim of yet another bombing, this time in Yemen.

The strike occurred late during the night on Monday in the Haydan district of Yemen, on the border with Saudi Arabia. It was carried out by Saudi forces, who bombed the MSF hospital twice in quick succession. The twelve medical staff and patients who were in the hospital when it was hit were able to evacuate, although some suffered injuries during the evacuation, according to The New York Times.

“The air raids resulted in the destruction of the entire hospital with all that was inside – devices and medical supplies – and the moderate wounding of several people,” Ali Mughli, director of the MSF hospital in Haydan, told Reuters.

Saudi forces have been engaged in an air war against Houthi rebels in Yemen since March of this year. The Saudis are among those from several Arab countries in the region, including the United Arab Emirates, who have been intervening in Yemen in a bid to retake Sanaa, the capital, from the Houthis.

More than 4,500 people have been killed in Yemen since the conflict began, which prompted the United Nations to label it a “humanitarian crisis” and international aid organizations like MSF to respond.

The MSF hospital destroyed in the strike was one of the few still in operation in northern Yemen.

MSF has also attempted to bring medical supplies to the southern Yemeni state of Taiz, but they have been unable to do so, due to stalled negotiations with Houthi leaders, according to a press release. Out of twenty hospitals in Taiz, only six are still functional.

“The situation in Taiz is dramatic and will only get worse in the coming weeks if no efforts are made to spare civilians from the violence and allow them to access basic services, including health facilities,” Karline Kleijer, MSF emergency manager for Yemen, said in a press release.  

MSF also continues to feel the impact of the bombing that took place at its Kunduz field hospital. Twenty-two people died as a result of that attack, including twelve MSF hospital staff, Reuters reports.

The Kunduz facility primarily provided surgical care for trauma victims. Without that hospital, MSF reports that there are now only two centers for treating war-related injuries in Kunduz, the Kunduz Regional Hospital and a facility at the airport.

President Obama issued an apology to MSF after Gen. John F. Campbell, the American commander in Afghanistan, told lawmakers that the attack had been “a US decision made within the US chain of command.”

But MSF International President Dr. Joanne Liu condemned the bombing of its Kunduz facility as “an attack on the Geneva Conventions,” and has called for an independent international inquiry into that attack by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission.

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