April 27, 2003

MSF Forced to Suspend Operations Despite Enormous Needs in Makamba

Bujumbura/Paris, April 28, 2003 — On April 25, a team from the international medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) working in Makamba province in southern Burundi was forced to suspend its activities although insecurity makes MSF's presence in the region critical for the civilian population.

Burundian health authorities are preventing humanitarian organizations from gaining access to medical equipment and supplies essential to carrying out emergency aid operations. Supplies have run out and surgical teams lack required items including anesthetics, suture materials, and bandages. Following weeks of negotiation, a 17-ton cargo of medical and surgical equipment arrived in Bujumbura on April 19. Although import procedures conformed to current regulations, the material remains blocked at the Bujumbura airport. An earlier delivery of surgical and medical supplies was also held in Bujumbura for more than three and a half months, subjecting the organization to high storage costs and unacceptable delays.

As a result of the current delays in supplies, MSF has had to suspend activities in Makamba province, including its work in all the reference hospital's medical departments (including surgery) and management of mobile clinics at several of the province's sites for displaced persons. Due to these delays, MSF teams no longer have the medical equipment necessary to carry out their work.

Given the insecurity in the province, MSF's presence is critically needed. On April 18, a security incident in the city center resulted in the death of one person and the wounding of 25 others. The MSF surgical team working in the city hospital treated all of the victims.

Repeated administrative restrictions by the Burundian health authorities come at a time when the country's civilians are increasingly falling victim to security incidents. These restrictions make it impossible for MSF to properly carry out its urgent medical and surgical programs.