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MSF withdraws from hospital in Houthi-held region of Yemen

Rua’a Alameri

Published: Updated:

The international medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have decided to withdraw from al-Thawra hospital in the Houthi-held governorate of Ibb due to the breach of their “no weapons policy.”

Since the turmoil began in the country after the 2014 Houthi coup in Sanaa, which led to an ongoing conflict that began in 2015, MSF has provided civilians with medical facilities that have become scarce due to the war.

“Due to our inability to run activities according to MSF’s principles of independence and impartiality, we have made the difficult decision to withdraw from Al Thawra hospital in Ibb,” the program manager for MSF in Yemen, Hugues Robert, said in a statement on Thursday.

The statement stated that MSF, which employs 66 people in the hospital, would not depart immediately, but gradually over the next three months.

The head of the Yemeni government’s Higher Relief Committee, Abdul Raqeeb Fatah, said according to local media reports that the reason behind MSF’s withdrawal was due to harassment by Houthi militias who are in control of the area. The report said that militants entered the hospital with weapons.

However, MSF denied the media reports, stating that they are not accurate. They said there have been no harassments and that medical personnel were never prevented from treating patients.

“The reason MSF decided to withdraw from the hospital was because people would refuse to leave their weapons outside before entering when we asked them to do so. This of course is a health and safety risk for both patients and staff,” MSF press officer Maha Oda told Al Arabiya English, explaining that this was a breach of MSF’s no weapons policy.

The withdrawal of MSF could have a disastrous effect on civilians in the region as few hospitals have the facilities to continue running in the war-ravaged country.

Meanwhile, Yemen’s ambassador to the US said in a recent opinion editorial published in Newsweek that Houthis have directly contributed to the humanitarian disaster in Yemen by preventing aid from reaching vulnerable members of the population.

Ambassador Ahmed Awad Bin Mubarak highlighted the recent incident when Houthi militias detained seven aid workers for using recycled boxes originating in Saudi Arabia.

“This sort of detention unmistakably demonstrates how the Houthis are undermining relief efforts,” Bin Mubarak wrote.