Thousands at risk after gunmen ransack S. Sudan hospital: MSF

AFP , Friday 17 May 2013

Doctors Without Borders say an attack on a key hospital in South Sudan left it without major repairs

Uniformed gunmen in South Sudan went on a rampage in a key hospital, destroying drug supplies and ransacking wards, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said Friday, warning the attack leaves some 100,000 people without lifesaving healthcare.

As well as looting drugs, beds and equipment, the attackers' "extraordinary...systematic and purposeful damage to the infrastructure" has left the hospital unusable without major repairs, MSF said Friday, after visiting the wreckage for the first time since the attack.

Gunmen last week rampaged through the remote town of Pibor -- epicentre of the conflict in the eastern Jonglei region between South Sudan's army and a rebellion by an ethnic militia -- targeting aid agencies.

The UN peacekeeping mission -- which has bolstered its force in Pibor, although most civilians have already fled -- complained to army commanders saying the attack included government troops as well as other forces.

"A special effort was made to destroy drug supplies, strewing them on the ground, to cut and slash the warehouse tents, to ransack the hospital wards, and even to cut electricity cables and rip them from the walls," said Richard Veerman, MSF's operations coordinator for South Sudan.

It is the only hospital for some 150 kilometres (90 miles), treating over a thousand patients a month, including many receiving surgery for war wounds.

MSF clinics in the region have been attacked six times in the last two years, but not with such apparent deliberate intention to destroy as in the most recent raid.

The men also looted premises of the Italian aid agency Intersos and raided UN stores.

Rebels led by David Yau Yau, a former theology scholar, have been fighting the government since April 2011, accusing the government of marginalising the Murle people they come from.

The volatile Jonglei region has been the scene of widespread conflict since South Sudan became independent in July 2011, with bloody battles between rival tribes, including the Dinka, Lou Nuer and Murle people.

The region was one of the worst hit areas by the 1983-2005 civil war that left communities awash with guns and riven by ethnic hatred.

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