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MSF pulls out of 'fig-leaf' UN humanitarian summit

MSF staff and facilities have themselves increasingly become victims of conflict [Getty]

Date of publication: 5 May, 2016

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The medical aid group is pulling out of the first ever World Humanitarian Summit, saying the meeting will not hold states to account for their role in conflicts.

Medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has pulled out of this month's UN-backed World Humanitarian Summit, saying it will fail to pressure governments that are denying basic help to victims of conflict and disease.

"We can no longer see how the (World Humanitarian Summit) will help the humanitarian sector to address the massive needs caused by continuing violence against patients and medical staff in Syria, Yemen and South Sudan; by civilians intent on fleeing being blocked at borders in Jordan, Turkey and Macedonia; by the inhumane treatment of refugees and migrants desperately trying to find safe haven in Greece and Australia," MSF said in a statement.

One of the world's leading emergency aid providers, MSF has increasingly become a victim of conflict itself, with 75 hospitals managed or supported by the charity bombed last year.

The charity expressed its anger that the summit, due to take place in Istanbul on May 23-24, would not address "serious gaps" in the response to the recent Ebola epidemic and the "serious restrictions placed by some states on humanitarian access, denying people basic services."

"MSF has been significantly engaged in the WHS process over the past 18 months," it said.

"However, with regret, we have come to the decision to pull out of the summit. We no longer have any hope that the WHS will address the weaknesses in humanitarian action and emergency response, particularly in conflict areas or epidemic situations."

75 hospitals managed or supported by the MSF were bombed last year.

Just last week, the bombing of the MSF-supported Al-Quds hospital in the Syrian city of Aleppo, left at least 55 people dead, according to the latest toll from the charity.

"The airstrikes first hit buildings neighbouring the hospital, then the hospital itself as the wounded were transferred there," MSF said in a separate statement on Wednesday.

"Al-Quds is the main pediatric referral hospital in Aleppo, and those killed include six staff members, including one of the last pediatricians in the city."

The charity is also locked in a war of words with the United States military after US planes bombed an MSF hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan last September, killing 42 people.

An investigation by the US military last week concluded that the troops targeted the facility by mistake and will not face war crimes charges.

Sandrine Tiller, MSF UK programme advisor on humanitarian issues, said UN organisers of the summit had "let states off the hook" by asking only that they make non-binding commitments, putting them on the same level as less powerful non-governmental organisations and UN agencies.

The summit has become a fig-leaf of good intentions, allowing these systematic violations, by states above all, to be ignored

"As shocking violations of international humanitarian law and refugee rights continue on a daily basis ... participants will be pressed to a consensus on non-specific, good intentions to 'uphold norms' and 'end needs'," the MSF statement said.

"The summit has become a fig-leaf of good intentions, allowing these systematic violations, by states above all, to be ignored."

Agencies contributed to this report.

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