Mali: Patient dies after an MSF ambulance is violently stopped by armed men

MSF condemns this serious and violent obstruction of medical aid and calls for respect of humanitarian and medical action and the civilian population.

An ambulance transporting patients between Douentza and Sévaré, in central Mali, was violently stopped by armed men for hours on Tuesday 5 January, resulting in the death of one of the patients on board. International medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) strongly condemns this serious obstruction of medical aid, and calls on all parties to the conflict to respect humanitarian and medical action and the civilian population.

The ambulance, clearly identified by the MSF logo, was on its way to the general hospital in Sévaré with three patients who had been seriously injured in the bombing in Douentza region on 3 January. A nurse from the Ministry of Health, a caretaker and a driver were also in the vehicle. The armed men tied them up, assaulted them and left them in the harsh sun for several hours before finally releasing them. One of the patients, a man in his sixties, died during his detention.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms all forms of violence against our patients, our staff and medical aid workers in general," said Juan Carlos Cano, MSF’s head of mission in Mali. "We are very shocked and call on the parties to the conflict to respect the ambulances, medical staff, patients and their carers. Medical vehicles must be allowed to transport patients safely.”

On Wednesday 6 January, the MSF ambulance finally reached the hospital in Sévaré. The other two patients in the vehicle are currently receiving medical care.

Earlier this week, MSF teams had treated several seriously injured patients from Bounty and Kikara villages (north-east of Douentza) at the Douentza referral health centre. The patients, mostly elderly men, had injuries from explosions, shards of metal and gunshot wounds. MSF was not present in the area at the time of the events and is not in a position to confirm the exact circumstances of these incidents, around which there is still a lot of confusion.

Deteriorating security situation

"The region of central Mali has become the deadliest in the country for the civilian population," said Juan Carlos Cano. "This latest deterioration of the security situation is further complicating the already extremely limited access that thousands of Malians have to essential medical care.

Following this violent obstruction of medical aid and the deterioration of the security situation in central Mali, MSF once again calls on all parties to the conflict to respect medical and humanitarian aid, medical facilities and the civilian population.


Médecins Sans Frontières has been working in Mali since 1985. Currently MSF runs medical and humanitarian projects in the regions of Kidal, Gao (Ansongo), Mopti (Ténenkou, Douentza, Bandiagara, Bankass and Koro), Ségou (Niono) and Sikasso (Koutiala), and also in the capital, Bamako.

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This is the press room for MSF UK - the UK office of Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF), an international, independent, medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from healthcare. MSF offers assistance to people based on need, irrespective of race, religion, gender or political affiliation.

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