Frontline healthcare organisation, Doctors Without Borders (DWB) has broken the silence over a latest incident in Nguti, a locality in Cameroon’s South West Region.
Claims that it is partnering with separatists in the region, DWB has warned, put its staff lives in “grave and immediate danger.”
This is after government said it had pulled out a separatist fighter from a DWB ambulance. Narrating its own side if the story, the institution in a release said on Saturday night December 25th, 2021, it received a call related to a wounded person in need of urgent assistance in the Tinto health area.
“One of our ambulances managed to pick him up the next morning at Ashum area and given his severe condition, he had to be transferred to Mutengene via Kumba for surgical attention,” it stated.
“As agreed and regularly done,” it went on, “… MSF had contacted the local military authorities beforehand, informed them about the transfer of a wounded patient to Mutengene and shared his age and gender as requested.”
Despite this, the ambulance was stopped by Cameroonian security forces at the Nguti check point and forced to return to Mamfe, where the patient had to be treated and stabilized.
“Since then, to avoid further incidents with our ambulances, we have been in touch with the authorities to understand the reason for the miscommunication with this reference,” DWB added.
The humanitarian medical organisation further addressed some media allegations, some of which suggested it was partnering with separatists in the region.
In its work in Cameroon, and elsewhere in the world, DWB said it “… treats people based on medical need, regardless of their background or affiliations. This impartial and neutral medicalhumanitarian work is notably protected the Geneva Conventions, who specify that persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria …”
Warning that hindering and obstructing its work put patients’ lives at risk, it also noted that “allegations of complicity with any actor in a conflict puts patients and MSF staff in grave and immediate danger.”
DWB has since appealed for restraint and understanding, urging everyone to be “responsible in their statements and publications relating to our humanitarian action in the country.”
Doctors Without Borders has throughout its time in the North West and South West regions, been a major first responder to emergencies, especially cases ignited by the ongoing armed conflict.
Despite reiterating impartiality and neutrality in the armed conflict multiple times, the work of DWB in the North West region was suspended a year ago by government.
Being a Frontline body working in hard-to-reach areas, DWB warned the suspension would have dire consequences for persons in need.
The suspension has since left some if the most vulnerable persons and victims of the armed conflict in a more terrible situation, given that it continues to limit them from accessing basic health care and emergency services DWB offered.