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Medical charity slams ambush on its staff in South Sudan            

JUBA, (Xinhua) -- International medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) on Wednesday denounced attack on its staff in South Sudan which resulted in injuries of two staff members, a loss of medical equipment and assets.

MSF said the ambush on Aug. 24 outside the town of Pibor forced the suspension of some of MSF’s medical programs in the area.

“We simply cannot turn a blind eye to incidents like these or start believing that they are in anyway normal, despite the alarming frequency with which they have occurred,” Marie Cleret, MSF Head of Mission said in a statement issued in Juba.

The convoy, consisting of an MSF vehicle, a tractor and a team of four staff members, was en route to conduct a medical assessment in a nearby village when it was ambushed by a group of armed men speaking the local language.

The medical charity said two members of the team were beaten, leaving them with minor injuries.

“The team’s personal affairs were stolen, alongside MSF property, including the team’s vehicle. The team was then left temporarily stranded, but was able to return to MSF’s facility in Pibor later the same evening,” it said.

MSF, which is the only humanitarian organization providing healthcare in Pibor, Lekongole and Gumuruk, said the latest attack represents yet another serious risk to its ability to safely provide medical care in Pibor.

“People are heavily reliant on the assistance we provide for their survival, and are already incredibly vulnerable due to the ongoing conflict,” Cleret said.

Following the incident, MSF said it had no choice but to suspend part of its outreach activity in Pibor, due to the increasing insecurity of traveling by road.

This is the third attack on MSF’s medical facilities in Pibor in the past nine months which has forced MSF to suspend the provision of much-needed medical care.

The attack comes just days after the charity called for the need to protect civilians and respect their access to medical care in South Sudan. Over the past 18 months, 24 MSF facilities and assets have been attacked in the country.

“MSF again calls on all armed actors to protect civilians and refrain from targeting medical facilities, which deprives people of a vital lifeline when they absolutely need it most,” said Cleret.

“This incident puts the local population even further out of the reach of lifesaving medical care.”

According to the UN, over 80 aid workers have been killed in South Sudan since the beginning of the December 2013 crisis, including at least 12 killed in 2017, and at least eight humanitarian convoys have been attacked already this year.

Under International Humanitarian Law, intentional attacks against humanitarian relief personnel may constitute war crimes.


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