World Bulletin / News Desk
Doctors without Border (MSF) on Wednesday said attacks on medical services and teams in South Sudan were making it difficult to attend to the "desperate needs" of hundreds of thousands of people, citing the discovery of dead patients in Malakal, capital of the Upper Nile State.
"Patients have been shot in their beds; wards burnt to the ground; medical equipment, and in one case an entire hospital, destroyed; and thousands of people have been effectively denied life-saving assistance," MSF head of mission in South Sudan Raphael Gorgeu told a press briefing in Juba.
"On February 22, MSF teams discovered at least 14 dead bodies throughout Malakal Teaching Hospital compound, scattered among 50 to 75 patients who remained in the facility, too weak or elderly to flee for safety," he recalled.
"Several patients showed signs they had been shot dead while lying in their beds," Gorgeu added.
"Many of the hospital wards, including the therapeutic feeding center for malnourished children, had been burned, and general looting had clearly taken place," he said.
He cited testimony from some of the patients evacuated to UNMISS (UN Mission in South Sudan) that armed groups had entered the hospital on February 19, killing anybody who had no money or mobile phones to give them.
"Later that afternoon, they returned, killing patients in their beds, including those who fled to the operating theater for safety," Gorgeu added.
"The rape of women and young girls also took place," said the MSF head of mission in South Sudan.
The South Sudanese government admitted on Friday that rebel forces were in control of Malakal after several days of fighting.
Ten people were reportedly killed last Wednesday in a local Catholic church, and seven others in the hospital, by rebel forces when the latter took the town.
South Sudan has been shaken by violence since last December, when President Salva Kiir accused his sacked vice president Riek Machar of standing behind a failed coup attempt against his regime.
The violence has already claimed more than 10,000 lives.
The UN estimates that some 3.7 million South Sudanese are now "severely food insecure," while more than 867,000 have been displaced by the fighting.
Gorgeu said that when an MSF team returned to Leer, a town in Unity State, they discovered the hospital thoroughly looted, burnt and vandalized.
"Vast parts of the town appear to be razed to the ground," he added.
Sarah Maynard, MSF coordinator for Leer, said that the devastation of the health facilities in the town had left more than 300,000 people affected.
"Leer is now empty and in ruins after civilians fled continued attacks and insecurity and are living in terrible conditions in the bush, too terrified to return home," she told the same press conference.
"We don't know who is responsible for this, but whoever did it knew what they were doing and knows the consequences," she added.
Maynard said 240 locally-hired MSF staffers had fled to the bush, leaving patients drinking dirty water and eating water lilies.
"The staffs are also reporting that they are reusing wound dressings and desperately trying to assist the displaced people," she added.
Gorgeu, the MSF head of mission, painted a grim picture of the health sector in South Sudan.
"Rather than safe havens for treatment, hospitals are now targets of attacks and brutality. They are places to fear rather than trust," he added.
"Hundreds of thousands of people are in desperate need of shelter, food, water and healthcare in South Sudan. The question is how can effective, neutral aid be provided in a climate of utter disrespect and fear?" he asked.
Gorgeu described attacks on medical facilities and patients as part of a broader campaign against towns, markets and public facilities across the country.
"These attacks show a complete lack of respect for medical care and deprive the most vulnerable of life-saving assistance just when they need it," he lamented.Last Mod: 26 Şubat 2014, 15:07