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Death toll rises to 19 in airstrike on MSF-supported Abs hospital in Hajjah

Press releases 
Four MSF-supported facilities have come under attack in the last year. Eleven people dead and at least 19 injured after airstrike hits Abs hospital in Hajjah.

    Update 17 August: 

    The death toll now stands at 19.

    Update 16 August: 

    According to the latest information gathered by the MSF teams in Hajjah, late last night three of the five patients hospitalised after yesterday’s airstrike died. The death toll from the airstrike on the MSF-supported hospital in northwestern Yemen now stands at 14.

    The medical team did all they could for the patients, but they arrived at the hospital in critical condition. The dead include Abdul Kareem al Hakeemi, an MSF staff member who died from injuries caused by the blast. Twenty four people were also injured in the airstrike and were referred to different health facilities in the area. MSF is keeping track of them to monitor their condition.

    At the time of the airstrike the hospital was full of patients, including newborns and children. Some people were recovering from surgery, some were in the maternity ward. “MSF 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, MSF Head of Mission in Yemen. MSF is still assessing the damage to the hospital and will launch its own investigation into the attack.

    This is the fourth attack against an MSF-supported facility in Yemen in the last year. “After each attack MSF receives reassurances from the actors in the conflict with promises that this will not happen again”, says Teresa Sancristóval, Manager of MSF’s 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.” 

    This new incident shows that there are no effective measures in place to ensure that hospitals are not another casualty of war. MSF 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, and killing and injuring staff and patients.”

     

    15 August 2016

    Abs hospital, in Hajjah governorate, northwestern Yemen, was hit by an airstrike this afternoon at 3.45pm local time, killing at least 11 people and injuring at least 19. The blast immediately killed nine people, including an MSF staff member. Two patients died while being transferred to Al Jamhouri hospital. Five patients remain hospitalised. Abs hospital, supported by MSF since July 2015, was partially destroyed. All remaining patients and staff have been evacuated. The location of the hospital was well known, and the hospital’s GPS coordinates were repeatedly shared with all parties to the conflict, including the Saudi-led coalition.

    This is the fourth attack against an MSF facility in less than 12 months. Once again, today we witness the tragic consequences of the bombing of a hospital. Once again, a fully functional hospital, full of patients and MSF national and international staff members, was bombed in a war that has shown no for respect medical facilities or patients. An aerial bomb hit the hospital compound, causing 11 people to lose their lives”, says Teresa Sancristóval, desk manager for the Emergency Unit in Yemen.

    Even with the recent United Nations resolution calling for an end to attacks on medical facilities and high-level declarations of commitment to international humanitarian law, nothing seems to be done to make parties involved in the conflict in Yemen respect medical staff and patients. Without action, these public gestures are meaningless for today's victims. Whether intentional or a result of a negligence, this is unacceptable.

    People in Yemen continue to be killed and injured while seeking medical care. The violence in Yemen is having a disproportionate burden on civilians. We want to express our outrage at having to send condolences once more to the families of our staff member and 10 patients, who should have been safe inside a hospital.”

    MSF asks all parties, and particularly to the Saudi-led coalition responsible for the attack, to guarantee that such attacks do not happen again.

    Since July 2015, 4,611 patients have been treated at Abs hospital, the main hospital functioning in the western part of Hajjah Governorate. The hospital had a 14-bed emergency room, a maternity unit, and a surgery unit. Over the past 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 patients in the maternity ward, 13 new-borns and 12 paediatrics. The hospital had admitted several war-wounded patients during the day. The number of patients in the emergency room at the moment of the strike is pending further clarification.


    MSF is active in 11 hospitals and health centres, and provides support to another 18 hospitals and health centres in eight governorates of Yemen, including Aden, Al-Dhale’, Taiz, Saada, Amran, Hajjah, Ibb and Sana’a. More than 2,000 MSF staff are currently working in Yemen, including 90 international staff.

    * Main picture : © Rawan Shaif