Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) compound in Leer, Unity State, South Sudan, was looted twice at gunpoint on October 2nd and 3rd. As a result, MSF suspended medical activities and remove its team from Leer, depriving the population in Leer and Mayendit Counties of urgently needed assistance. This is the third time MSF has been forced to suspend medical activities in Leer since conflict began in South Sudan in December 2013.
“MSF strongly condemns these armed robberies of its personnel and facilities,” says MSF Emergency Manager Tara Newell. “MSF’s medical activities have been vital to vulnerable populations suffering from malaria, malnutrition and other illnesses. Following these unacceptable incidents, there is no more access to life-saving medical care in Leer.”
Last Friday, amid renewed clashes, well-organized armed men entered MSF compound and stole medical supplies, vehicles, technical equipment and personal belongings while threatening MSF staff. The following day, MSF facilities and personnel were looted a second time by the same group, forcing MSF to suspend its medical activities. No MSF staff was injured during the incidents and medical team was able to provide treatment to five war-wounded patients before the evacuation.
Humanitarian assistance in southern Unity State has been severely limited since last May, when an upsurge in fighting and violence against civilians displaced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes and forced humanitarian actors to leave. In July, MSF was the first medical organization able to resume activities in Leer and northern Mayendit counties with a small team.
MSF remains committed to independently providing urgent medical assistance in Leer but cannot continue its operations until the appropriate authorities address such incidents. All warring parties must be reminded that international humanitarian laws protect medical facilities and staff.