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Yemen: 14 people dead and at least 24 injured after an airstrike hits MSF-Supported Abs hospital

17 Aug 2016

Abs hospital, in Hajjah governorate,northwestern Yemen, was hit by an airstrike on Monday 15 August at 15.45 local time, killing at least 14 people and injuring at least 24. The blast immediately killed nine people, including a Médecins Sans Frontières staff member, and two more patients died while being transferred to Al Jamhouri hospital. Abs hospital has been partially destroyed and all the remaining patients and staff have been evacuated. The GPS coordinates of the hospital were repeatedly shared with all parties to the conflict, including the Saudi-led coalition, and its location was well- known.

This is the fourth attack against a Médecins Sans Frontières -supported facility in Yemen in the last year. “After each attack Médecins Sans Frontières receives reassurances from the actors in the conflict with promises that this will not happen again”, says Teresa Sancristóval, Manager of Médecins Sans Frontières’ Emergency Unit. “We do not want words, courtesies, overpromises which go undelivered.  What we need to see is proof of intent and a commitment that there will be no more airstrikes on medical facilities, staff, and patients.”  

"What we need to see is proof of intent and a commitment that there will be no more airstrikes on medical facilities, staff, and patients"

“This new incident shows that there are no effective measures in place to ensure that hospitals are not another casualty of war. Médecins Sans Frontières has shared the coordinates and information related to all its facilities in Yemen with all parties to the conflict, yet we have been hit four times. If the current military protocols are leading to ‘mistakes’ then those protocols have to be changed because they are destroying fully functioning medical facilities, staff, and patients.”

At the time of the airstrike the hospital was full of patients recovering from surgery, in maternity, newborns, and children in paediatrics. “Médecins Sans Frontières evacuated all the patients and staff but with the closure of this once fully functioning hospital that served the whole area, the community is now deprived of essential medical services at a time when access to healthcare is most vital,” says Juan Prieto, Head of Mission in Yemen.  Médecins Sans Frontières is still surveying the damage and will launch its own investigation into the attack. Médecins Sans Frontières asks all parties, and particularly to the Saudi-led coalition responsible for the attack, to guarantee that such attacks do not happen again. 

Abs Hospital was the main medical facility functioning in the western part of Hajjah governorate. The facility has treated 4,611 patients since Médecins Sans Frontières began supporting the hospital in July 2015. The hospital had a 14-bed emergency room, a maternity unit and a surgical unit. In the last weeks the hospital had seen an increase in wounded patients, mostly victims of recent clashes and the aerial campaign in the area. At the moment of the strike, there were 23 patients in surgery, 25 in the maternity ward, 13 new borns, and 12 in pediatrics. Médecins Sans Frontières is active in 11 hospitals and health centres, and providing support to another 18 hospitals or health centres in eight governorates: Aden, Al-Dhale’, Taiz, Saada, Amran, Hajjah, Ibb and Sana’a governorates.