Are health workers safe in Yemen?

A Medecins Sans Frontieres vehicle. The organization will temporarily suspend its activities in Yemen following a violent incident that occured on June 18 in one of its emergency surgical referral centers. Photo by: youngrobv / CC BY-NC-ND

A violent incident has prompted Médecins Sans Frontières to temporarily suspend its activities in its emergency surgical referral center in Aden, Yemen.

The international medical organization enforces a strictly “no-weapons policy” in all its facilities around the world. But on Monday (June 18), armed men violated this policy when they “attempted” to take a way a patient undergoing treatment in the center, located in the Al-Wahda hospital complex.

MSF made arrangements to transfer the patient to a government hospital in Aden for his safety, but the incident has raised the organization’s concerns over the security of its own staff members. It not only underlines the growing insecurity in the country, but also the risks posed against health workers, even on neutral grounds.

Recent reports of violence in the country paint a grim picture of this reality: A French aid worker kidnapped in April and a Yemeni national killed earlier this week while on a humanitarian mission in Abyan province. Both worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross.

MSF said in a press release the suspension is for three days, starting this Friday (June 22). And the organization will fully resume operations Monday (25), MSF communications officer Ali Al-Mawlawi told Devex in an email. The organization is currently working with authorities to ensure the safety of its patient and staff members.

The center will not admit any new patient from Aden until Monday. But the organization will continue to refer patients from Abyan, Al-Mawlawi said.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.