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Shock as S. Sudan patients ‘shot dead’ in hospital beds

Doctors Without Borders says providing medical care in S. Sudan has become nearly impossible due to atrocities

Published: Updated:

The aid group Doctors Without Borders say the rising violence in South Sudan and the lack of respect for health care workers has made providing its services almost impossible.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the group said it had found at least 14 dead bodies in a Malakal hospital over the weekend, several of whom had murdered while lying in their beds.

Warning of an "alarming pattern of lootings and attacks on patients" and health facilities, Doctors without Borders (MSF, Medecins sans Frontieres) said its crucial work was being strangled by a "climate of utter disrespect and fear."

The statement also said that medical care had “come under fire” with “wards burned to the ground, medical equipment looted, and in one case, an entire hospital destroyed.”

Discussing the recently burned down MSF hospital in Leer, project coordinator Sarah Maynard said: "The destruction from fire was unbelievable... the fridges where we used to keep the vaccines cold were just melted white blobs.”

"Now nearly 300,000 people have no access to a hospital, nor any general healthcare....there's nothing left in the hospital that is useable," she added

Group leader Raphael Gorgeu said Doctors Without Borders does not want to leave South Sudan but must first take into consideration the safety of the organization’s workers.

Recent heavy battles between rebels and government troops have been over the key northern oil hub of Malakal, which has exchanged hands several times between the warring sides.

"Malakal is deserted, with houses burned throughout and countless dead bodies strewn in the streets... I can find no words to describe the brutality," said Carlos Francisco, MSF's emergency coordinator in the town.

Atrocities have been committed by both sides since the conflict began in the capital of Juba on Dec. 15.

After the country erupted into conflict, strategic towns have been the scene of heavy clashes between the South Sudanese army, loyal to President Salva Kiir, and fighters who back his former vice president Riek Machar.

The violence between the two leaders pits Machar’s Nuer people against Kiir’s Dinkas, two of the largest tribes in the country, spurring ethnic clashes.

Kiir dubbed the unrest a “coup attempt” by Machar, whom he sacked in July.

Machar, who has claimed Kiir of becoming increasingly dictatorial, denied the claims, saying Kiir was attempting to purge potential political rivals.

Thousands have been killed and almost 900,000 forced from their homes over the past two months as rebel and government forces fight for control of the country, an oil-producing state.

Despite attempts for mediated peace talks directly between the warring factions in Ethiopia which focused on a ceasefire and release of political prisoners, the conflict has continued.

Aid agencies last month announced they needed $166 million over the next three months to help civilians in conflict torn South Sudan, the United Nations said.

Money, they said, will be used for health, sanitation and the distribution food in addition to managing camps that were set up to protect civilians during the recent ethnic classes, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement.

Aid will also be disbursed to the some 200,000 refugees from Sudan who have fled to the South Sudanese states of Unity and Upper Nile.

(AFP)