MSF pulls medical staff from Yemen over ‘indiscriminate shelling’ by Saudi-led coalition

A crater caused by a Saudi-led coalition air strike is seen at the yard of a hospital operated by Medecins Sans Frontieres in the Abs district of Hajja province, Yemen August 16, 2016. © Abduljabbar Zeyad
Leading international medical charity MSF has evacuated staff from six hospitals in Yemen due to frequently occurring “indiscriminate shelling” by the Saudi-led coalition. The latest airstrike on a MSF facility killed 19 people and injured 24 this week.

As a result of the August 15 aerial bombardment of Abs hospital in Hajjah governorate, Doctors Without Borders (MSF), has decided to “evacuate” its staff from six hospitals in Saada and Hajjah governorates in northern Yemen. The attack on yet another MSF-supported facility has become the fourth and deadliest in the 17-month long confrontation between the Yemeni opposition and the Saudi-led coalition.

“Given the intensity of the current offensive and our loss of confidence in the SLC's ability to prevent such fatal attacks, MSF considers the hospitals in Saada and Hajjah governorates unsafe for both patients and staff,” a statement issued by MSF reads.

READ MORE: 19 killed in airstrike on MSF-supported hospital in Yemen

Medical facilities in Haydan, Razeh, Al Gamouri, and Yasnim in Saada governorate, as well as Abs and Al Gamouri facilities in Hajjah have now lost obstetricians, pediatricians, surgeons and emergency room specialists needed to save countless lives in a war zone. These hospitals will now rely only on staff from the Yemeni Ministry of Health and other non-MSF volunteers.

In making its decision the NGO blamed the Saudi-led coalition for its failure to honor international law and avoid targeting medical facilities coordinates of which have been shared with the coalition. Despite two meetings with officials in Riyadh to assure a safe work environment, the bombings continue to target MSF facilities in Yemen.

“Coalition officials repeatedly state that they honor international humanitarian law, yet this attack shows a failure to control the use of force and to avoid attacks on hospitals full of patients,” MSF said. “Aerial bombings have, however, continued, despite the fact that MSF has systematically shared the GPS coordinates of hospitals in which we work with the parties involved in the conflict.”

MSF explicitly stated that it is “neither satisfied nor reassured” by the coalition’s statement that this attack was a mistake, and called for an “independent investigation” into the bombing.

“This latest incident shows that the current rules of engagement, military protocols and procedures are inadequate in avoiding attacks on hospitals, and need revision and changes,” said Joan Tubau, General Director of MSF. “MSF asks the Saudi-led coalition and the governments supporting the coalition, particularly the US, UK, and France, to ensure an immediate application of measures geared to substantially increasing the protection of civilians.”

Meanwhile #NotATarget hashtag is trending online to raise social awareness and support for the life-saving work charities offer in warzones.

READ MORE: Economic damage from civil war costs Yemen $14bn - report

More than 6,500 people have been killed since the Saudi-led coalition began its air campaign in Yemen in March 2015, according to UN estimates. The coalition of Arab states intervened in the country after Houthi rebels seized the capital Sanaa to oust the government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Mansour Hadi.