Ethiopia: MSF Calls for Investigation Into Workers’ Murders

The Médecins Sans Frontières wants authorities in Ethiopia to investigate the killing of three of its staff and requests that aid workers be allowed to safely operate in the country.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) also known as Doctors Without Borders, an International NGO, has called for an investigation following the gruesome murder of three of it staffs on Thursday, 24 June 2021 in Tigray, Ethiopia.

The three MSF team members who were killed had been working in the area since Feb. 2021 and were engaged exclusively in medical and humanitarian activities. They were killed by an unknown armed gang. 

Teresa Sancristova, MSF Operations Director said in a statement on Wednesday, July 7, 2021 that necessary parties should look into the killings of their staff after two weeks of no one taking responsibility for this act and pleaded that aid workers should be allowed safe access to these regions.

Sancristova disclosed that MSF would be suspending its activities in Abi Adi, Adigrat, and Axum, in central and eastern Tigray, adding that the organisation would still be cautiously providing assistance in other areas of Tigray to people in urgent need.

“Almost two weeks since the murders of our colleagues, no one has claimed responsibility and the circumstances around their deaths remain unclear, this is why we are requesting an immediate investigation that resulted in their deaths and to provide us with a detailed account who was responsible, but we have made the extremely painful but necessary decision to suspend our activities in several areas of Tigray,” Sancristova said.

Since the conflict in Tigray began in Nov. 2020, medical staff and aid workers have been targeted, while health facilities have been looted, destroyed or exploited for military purposes. 

MSF staff have been threatened and beaten, and have witnessed armed incursions into health facilities supported by MSF. Aid organisations, including MSF, have been repeatedly targeted by public statements laying unwarranted suspicion on their activities, thereby jeopardising the safety of their teams.

The suspension of MSF activities in Abi Adi, Adigrat, and Axum will have major medical and humanitarian effects for the population in central Tigray. 

Over six months, MSF teams in these three areas have provided emergency medical treatment to 9,440 people, performed 763 surgeries, admitted more than 3,000 people for in-patient care, helped more than 3,300 women give birth, performed 365 emergency caesareans, provided medical care for 335 survivors of sexual violence, and provided mental health support to 1,444 people. 

Before suspending its activities, MSF teams donated medical supplies to the Regional Health Bureau and to hospitals, which remain overwhelmed by the numbers of patients needing care.

“The decision to suspend our activities will leave a gap in lifesaving assistance, we know countless patients will go unattended and some will die; we know the burden on what little remains of the health system will be crushing. Our teams must be allowed to provide humanitarian assistance in response to the needs of crisis-affected communities in safety,” Sancristova said. 

She stated that if MSF and other aid organisations are to continue working in Tigray and the rest of Ethiopia, that all parties to the conflict must provide assurances that this work can be carried out in safety.

“Parties to this conflict must take responsibility for ensuring that an incident like this never happens again. It is vital that aid workers and medical staff can carry out their activities in a safe environment. Humanitarian organisations must be allowed to provide assistance, independently and impartially, according to people’s needs.” 

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