A Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) ambulance transporting patients between Douentza and Sévaré, in central Mali, was violently stopped by armed men for hours on Tuesday 5 January, resulting in the death of one of the patients onboard. MSF strongly condemns this serious obstruction of medical aid, and calls on all parties to the conflict to respect humanitarian and medical action and the civilian population.
The ambulance, clearly identified by the MSF logo, was on its way to the general hospital in Sévaré with three patients who has been seriously injured in the bombing of 3 January in Douentza region. A nurse from the Ministry of Health, a caretaker and a driver were also in the vehicle. The armed men tied them up, assaulted them and left them in the harsh sun for several hours before finally releasing them. One of the patients, a man in his sixties, died during his detention.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms all forms of violence against our patients, our staff and medical aid workers in general,” said Juan Carlos Cano, MSF’s head of mission in Mali. “We are very shocked and call on the parties to the conflict to respect the ambulances, medical staff, patients and their carers. Medical vehicles must be allowed to transport patients safely.”
On Wednesday 6 January, the MSF ambulance finally reached the hospital in Sévaré. The other two patients in the vehicle are currently under medical care.
Earlier this week, MSF teams had treated several seriously injured patients at the Douentza referral health centre, following bomb attack in the Douentza and Sévaré villages, in the north-east of Douentza. The patients, mostly elderly men, had injuries from explosions, shards of metal and gunshot wounds. MSF was not present in the area at the time of the events and is not in a position to confirm the exact circumstances of these incidents, around which there is still a lot of confusion.
Following the violent detention of its ambulance and the deterioration of the security situation in central Mali, MSF once again calls on all parties to the conflict to respect medical and humanitarian aid, medical facilities and the civilian population.
Médecins Sans Frontières has been working in Mali since 1985. Currently MSF runs medical and humanitarian projects in the regions of Kidal, Gao (Ansongo), Mopti (Ténenkou, Douentza, Bandiagara, Bankass and Koro), Ségou (Niono) and Sikasso (Koutiala), and also in the capital, Bamako.