An employee of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), an international medical humanitarian organisation, has been killed in South Sudan owing to an outburst of inter-community violence in Pieri, an administrative division in the northeastern region where it runs a Primary Health Centre.
MSF confirmed the incident in a statement released on Tuesday. The organisation, also known as Doctors Without Borders, said dozens of others sustained injuries as a result of the outburst and it has caused people to flee to the bush and other places.
It has, as a result, decided to suspend medical care in the town until it is sure of the safety of its officials and patients.
“It is with great sadness that Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) confirms that a South Sudanese member of staff was killed, and two more were injured, during intense fighting that erupted over the weekend in and around Pieri,” said Steve MacKay, MSF Deputy Head of Mission in South Sudan.
“We express our deepest sympathy and condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of our staff member and all those affected.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the outrageous acts of intercommunal violence that has left dozens of people seriously wounded, and we fear many more dead.”
According to the organisation’s statement, the fighting started on Saturday morning at which time one patient and three workers were at the PHC. Local residents escaped to nearby bushes and villages, but the attacks continued until the afternoon of Sunday, May 17. Some villages in the area were burnt and homes in Pieri were looted.
“Over 50 wounded people, including two MSF staff members, were brought to the MSF hospital in Lankien, approximately 50 kilometres north of Pieri, where they are now receiving treatment,” the non-governmental organisation said.
MacKay said the team is “very concerned that other wounded people will not be able to access lifesaving medical care due to limited access to medical services in the area”.
“We have reasons to believe that the number of wounded people is very high. So far, we have received 56 people with gunshot wounds, but we fear that many more could be dead, and over 100 wounded in and around Pieri,” he added.
“Our team is very concerned that other wounded people will not be able to access lifesaving medical care due to limited access to medical services in the area.
“The recurring episodes of intercommunal violence continue to have devastating consequences for the population. We have seen many times that this kind of attack can cause the displacement and loss of livelihoods for hundreds or even thousands of people.
“Now that the rainy season is starting, people without proper shelter are even more exposed to diseases like malaria, respiratory tract infections and acute watery diarrhoea that kills thousands every year,” says MacKay. “All this without taking into account the added complexity of the COVID-19 pandemic which has started to spread across the country.”