Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Doctors Without Borders Hospital Bombed In Yemen


Even in war zones, hospitals are supposed to be places of refuge. People with diabetes can get insulin, pregnant women can get checkups and even injured fighters can get treatment. Still, on Sunday, there was another attack on a hospital in Yemen. This one was run by Doctors Without Borders or MSF. It's the third such attack on an MSF facility in as many months. We reached one of MSF's regional presidents Jose Antonio Bastos, who oversees operations in Yemen. He joins us from Barcelona. Thank you for being with us today.


MCEVERS: Can you just tell us what happened?

BASTOS: Precisely on the morning of last Sunday, the hospital Shiara in the north of Yemen received an impact of something that looked like a missile, killing five persons and wounding another 10. The hospital was rendered absolutely nonfunctional, besides the fact that both staff and patients are refusing to get any closer to the hospital because they feel it has become a target.

MCEVERS: Who do you think is responsible for this attack?

BASTOS: That's very difficult to say accurately. This hospital's GPS coordinates had been shared with all the combatants. On the other hand, considering the hospital is in the territory controlled by the Houthis, it makes more sense that the attack may come from the Saudi-led coalition. But this is something we have not been able to establish yet.

MCEVERS: And we should just clarify - right? - the conflict in Yemen is between the Houthis - this is a group that is backed by Iran - and a coalition that's led by Saudi Arabia. This hospital was in Houthi territory, is that correct?

BASTOS: Absolutely. And so far, we have had regular contact with the Saudi Arabian Armed Forces to get from them guarantees about the acceptance of our services in Yemen (unintelligible), and it has always been formally accepted.

MCEVERS: And yet two hospitals have been hit previously. And who is responsible for those attacks?

BASTOS: In both previous attacks, it's been more clearly identified that the origin of the attack was the Saudi-led air forces.

MCEVERS: I did read one report that an official with Yemen's government in exile, in Saudi Arabia, said that Houthi rebel fighters were using this most recent hospital as a base. Is there any truth to that claim?

BASTOS: MSF has a practice of not allowing any sort of arms or weapons in the hospitals where we work. In this particular incident, even though wounded civilians were not even wearing their traditional big knives. MSF is very strict. If we cannot enforce this policy, we do not work in the hospitals. We know we're the risk and the importance of keeping hospitals as neutral spaces so it is respected by the combatants.

MCEVERS: And yet as we said, this is the third attack on an MSF facility inside Yemen in as many months. Of course, it comes after a U.S. attack on an MSF hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan last year. Are these attacks making you rethink your operations? Are you, for instance, considering pulling out of Yemen?

BASTOS: We are certainly performing a thorough analysis of the situation and we will have to decide on a series of changes that include the possibility of leaving. In the balance, we keep always the risk versus the impact. The impact we are having in Yemen is enormous because its needs are huge and there is not nearly any other actors providing healthcare to the population in Yemen.

MCEVERS: Jose Antonio Bastos is the regional president of Medecins Sans Frontieres or Doctors Without Borders, this section in Spain. Thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it.

BASTOS: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.