By Hope Nda
Gunmen injured a nurse working with Doctors Without Borders after firing at the NGO’s ambulance near the roadside village of Mbalangi along the Kumba-Buea highway in the Southwest region.
The attack occurred in the early hours of Thursday, February 4, while the ambulance was responding to a call to rescue a dying patient in the town of Muyuka.
Doctors Without Borders said in a statement that the vehicle was hit and the accompanying nurse injured before a second ambulance was dispatched to rescue the patient who was in a critical state.
“Following this attack, a second ambulance was dispatched to pick up the patient who is in critical condition and now receiving medical attention. Our colleague is also receiving medical attention and is currently recovering from the injuries,” the statement read.
MSF condemned the attack, urging that healthcare facilities, including ambulances, should not be targets in conflict.
The attack on DWB’s ambulance violates Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Convention on the treatment of neutral parties in war and conflict.
Article 3(2) of the Convention provides that, “An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the parties to the conflict,” including members of armed militias who are sick or wounded.
Several other clauses of the Geneva Convention and other international rights agreements have often been violated during the ongoing Anglophone crisis, as civilians, religious leaders and medical facilities have been targeted on several occasions.
Doctors Without Borders is one of the non-governmental organisations responding to the humanitarian needs of thousands of Anglophone Cameroonians trapped in a conflict pitching Separatists and Government forces since 2016.
But navigating through bullets into the bushes and villages where several people are hiding is proving difficult for these organisations, as the conflict situation does not guarantee even the survival of humanitarian workers.
This was a concern raised by Human Rights Watch, HRW, Central Africa Senior Researcher, Illaria Allegrozi, in a June 4, 2020 release where she acknowledged that humanitarian workers have been targeted severally by both Anglophone Separatists and the Cameroon Military.
“Our teams provide neutral and impartial medical humanitarian assistance through our emergency ambulance referrals, secondary level care, and a decentralised model of community care,” said Doctor Without Borders in a statement on Thursday.
Attacks against health and humanitarian workers in the Northwest and Southwest regions have often been overlooked by both government and separatist leaders with very few measures taken by both parties to protect these neutral bodies.
On July 6, 2020, Separatist fighters killed a Doctors Without Borders community health worker in the Southwest after accusing him of collaborating with the military. The separatists also abducted seven staff of a CBC health centre in Bambui, Northwest, before releasing them two days after.
Meanwhile, the military damaged a health facility in the Northwest on June 30, 2020, and arbitrarily arrested seven health workers in the Southwest on July 6, according to HRW.
With over 650,000 persons displaced by the Anglophone conflict, at least 1.8 million people are relying on humanitarian aid, and 1.4 million among them lack reliable access to food, reported Reliefweb in June 2020.