Violent attacks: Mēdecins sans Frontières reduces activities in Zurmi as precautionary measure

The Mēdicins sans Frontières (MSF) has announced withdrawal of its services in the Zurmi local government area of Zamfara State as the armed confrontations in the area resume.

In a press statement made available to SMARTS NEWS NIGERIA by the field communication officer of the MSF Abdulkareem Yakubu said “The recent escalation of violence across Zamafara state has forced MSF’s hand. 

“Yesterday we had to partially withdraw our team from the Zurmi General Hospital. Due to the proximity of clashes to the hospital we are no longer able to guarantee the safety of our patients or our staff. Yakubu lamented 

However, He said “This was a difficult decision as we are one of the only international medical actors in Zurmi. Although this negatively impacts those who require free medical care the most, this also highlights the need for more humanitarian actors to take responsibility in the Northwest of Nigeria.” he suggested

The press statement explained that, Continuous heavy fighting has been taking place in Zurmi town since 10 December, with some of the confrontations occurring dangerously close to a hospital supported by Médecins sans Frontières (MSF). These armed clashes have provoked the displacement of thousands of people in need of security, shelter and access to basic services.

Humanitarian support is needed to help those in dire need of assistance. 

Faced with important security risks, MSF medical teams on the ground had to evacuate part of its staff and were unable to function optimally, having to suspend the provision of healthcare to communities outside of the town.

In this context, our team is concerned about patients in need of medical treatment as they are unable to reach the hospital in a safe manner.  

“Some of the patients refuse to leave the hospital out of fear” explains Adjide

Hermann, MSF deputy field coordinator in Zurmi,

“we had no choice but to reduce part of our team, and the staffs who are still working at the hospital are afraid of what is going to happen next”. 

Dr. Simba Tirima, MSF country representative, expressed deep concern.

“This situation is untenable; we urgently appeal to the parties involved in the conflict to cease their hostilities to protect the population.

“This is also crucial to safeguard the medical mission and to maintain the safety of patients and medical staff”. 

While the hostilities continue, sick and wounded patients are those facing greatest humanitarian and health needs as they struggle to access healthcare. 

The December spike in extreme violence, including killings and kidnappings, comes within a wider context of insecurity in Zamfara state. 

The ongoing level of insecurity has forced the displacement of thousands of people. In Zurmi, most of these people are forced to live in unsanitary conditions, in two unofficial camps and schools serving as temporary shelters.  

With violent clashes taking place a few meters from the hospital compound on 11 December, MSF was no longer able to guarantee the safety of patients or staff. 

“There was intense crossfire, we saw cars set on fire. Our team had to seek shelter in the hospital for a long time” says Adjide Herman.

Only two days later, a second attack obliged the team to sleep in the security room inside the hospital. 

“Our teams are committed to provide medical support to the Nigerian population in Zamfara state, we will do our best to maintain the operations, but we wish to see improvements in the security situation to be able to provide the appropriate medical care” adds Dr. Tirima. 

In recent years, northwest Nigeria has been hit by an unprecedented wave of kidnappings, killings, displacements, and disruption of socio-economic activities due to the rise of armed bandits in the region.  

In 2023, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, MSF teams carried out 448 surgical interventions, provided 700 emergency consultations and assisted 5,674 deliveries in the General hospital in Zurmi.

MSF also implements activities in the Shinkafi general hospital, and in Talata Mafara and Gummi with pediatric units and malnutrition centers.  

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