Al Salam Hospital, Khamir, Yemen (Photo credit: Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières)
Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has announced that it will reduce its operations in Yemen’s oil-rich Marib region following the abduction of two of their personnel by militants likely from Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
In a statement MSF announced that they “will stop activity in five mobile clinics out of eight, and withdraw fully its support to the Marib General Hospital,” adding that they are “aware that such a decision will have a direct impact on the MSF team in Yemen and patients.”
In relation to the kidnappings, MSF stated the actions represent an “unacceptable act of violence” which has increased their level of focus and caution for their teams in the area.
Over recent months, Marib province has become a strategic battleground which could prove to be the turning point for the Saudi-led war on Yemen.
On 10 March, reports indicated that hundreds of Saudi coalition fighters defected to the Yemeni side during the most recent battles for Marib.
An analysis published by The Cradle highlights what Marib means for the future of this devastating war.
Through the control of Marib, the Houthis seek to consolidate their institutions as an alternative to foreign ones that have kept the country impoverished, and bring an end to the economic crisis in Yemen.
No longer playing a defensive role in the war, the Houthi offensive in Marib has wracked up thousands of casualties. Marib is, after all, the negotiating ground on which the last bastion of the ‘legitimacy’ of the Hadi government-in-exile rests, the military operations of the ousted Hadi government are based, and the last major Saudi military base stands.
With mounting casualties amid the intense clashes in Marib, medical aid is key. MSF is “aware of the major medical and humanitarian needs of the people in Marib. However, at this point in time, the MSF priority is the safe and the fast return of our colleagues.”
MSF was founded by Bernard Kouchner, a French politician and physician who later served as head of the UN interim government in Kosovo and foreign minister under the right-wing Sarkozy administration in France.
In 1999, Kouchner was accused by the authorities of the former Yugoslavia of using MSF as a front for espionage and smuggling during his tenure in Kosovo.
MSF has recently been met with skepticism by the Luhansk People’s Republic, who revoked the license of MSF in 2015, as well as the Islamic Republic of Iran, who rejected MSF aid for the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, partly due to France’s history of knowingly sending AIDS-infected blood supplies to the Islamic Republic in the 1980s.