Geneva (Alshahid)-Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is extremely concerned about an incident that occurred on Saturday 16June in the MSF-supported hospital in Belet Weyne, Somalia.
The neutrality of Belet Weyne hospital was jeopardised when members of a visiting delegation of local authorities, including armed forces, entered the facility without surrendering their arms. This represented a disregard for the internationally respected protocol ensuring health facilities remain free of weapons. Furthermore, some members of the delegation filmed and photographed both patients and staff without first obtaining their consent. These breaches of protocol caused significant tension, leading to the temporary arrest of an MSF staff member. The incident was resolved with support from the local administration.
“MSF urges all parties in Somalia to respect and protect all health facilities and medical staff, and ask authorities to do their utmost to allow health workers to carry out their duties. When you provide medical care, it is essential that the privacy of both patients and staff are respected” says Monica Rull, MSF Program manager.
MSF reiterates its call for all parties in Somalia to respect the neutrality and impartiality of medical facilities. Filming and photography of patients and staff by armed forces breaches confidentiality and infringes upon personal dignity. Respect for our patients also means that they are not to be exposed to filming and photographing, without their clear consent. Patient confidentiality is part of medical ethics.
MSF provides free medical services in all of central and southern Somalia. At the 108-bed hospital in Belet Weyne, in Hiraan region, MSF provides free medical services for the town’s 70,000 inhabitants. It is also the referral hospital for the 120,000 people living in the district. In 2011, 21,000 patients attended the emergency ward and 2,800 patents were admitted to the hospital. More than 800 deliveries were conducted and 1,500 surgeries were performed. There were 1,500 severely malnourished children treated in MSF’s therapeutic feeding programme.
In October 2011, two MSF aid workers, Montserrat Serra and Blanca Thiebaut, were abducted in Dadaab refugee camp in Northern Kenya while carrying out emergency assistance for the Somali population. They remain in captivity, and MSF has put on hold the opening of any non-emergency projects in Somalia until their release. MSF strongly favours the non-violent resolution of such cases as the use of force endangers the lives of the hostages.
MSF currently runs 13 projects in Mogadishu, South Central Somalia and Somaliland. Throughout 2011, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) was running medical projects in up to 22 different locations in Somalia, as well as large-scale programmes in the camps for Somali refugees in Ethiopia and Kenya. MSF has been working in Somalia continuously since 1991 and relies solely on private charitable donations for its work in Somalia and does not accept any government funding.