SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – Doctors Without Borders suspended its work in El Salvador on Sunday after one of its ambulances was waylaid on the outskirts of San Salvador.
Armed men forced the crew of the ambulance to stop and get out of the vehicle in a gang-dominated neighbourhood in the township of Ilopango, the humanitarian group said.
It said the crew members were interrogated and roughed up, and threatened with guns, before they managed to leave the area. A doctor and a nurse suffered light injuries.
The group said it would not continue to take emergency calls unless the safety of its personnel was guaranteed. The group, also known as Medicos Sin Fronteras, said the incident was the first such attack since it started working in El Salvador in 2018.
Street gangs in El Salvador commonly have lookouts posted in neighbourhoods they control, where they stop and question anyone entering. But ambulances had usually escaped such treatment.
The gangs control drugs sales and extortion rackets in the neighbourhoods.
Médicos Sin Fronteras presta atención humanitaria a sectores vulnerable se la población, en especial aquellos que viven en las zonas de pandillas donde los servicios de salud público no llegan.
El servicio de ambulancias de MSF atiende emergencias médicas las 24 horas de los siete días de la semana en los populosos municipios de Soyapango, Ilopango y algunas zonas de San Martín, Tocanatepeque y Ciudad Delgado que son estigmatizados debido a la violencia de las pandillas.