Brussels/Jakarta, January 3, 2005 — Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and Greenpeace are working together to bring desperately needed medical aid to survivors of last week’s earthquake. The Greenpeace ship ‘Rainbow Warrior’ and its crew of 19 will transport equipment, food, fuel, medical supplies, and MSF medical staff to Aceh, northern Sumatra; an area which has proven difficult to access for aid organizations. The ship departed from Singapore yesterday and is scheduled to arrive in the port of Medan tomorrow morning, where it will load supplies before heading to Banda Aceh, at the northern tip of Sumatra.
“The northwest coast of Sumatra is certainly one of the areas most severely affected by the earthquake, but it has so far been logistically difficult for aid organizations to reach the region,” says David Curtis, MSF emergency coordinator in Jakarta. “In order to save lives, a massive relief effort is needed. By using the Greenpeace ship to transport medical staff and supplies, we hope to reach people in remote areas that we would otherwise be unable to help. We plan to use the ship to travel along the west coast with a full package of food, medical supplies, and materials such as plastic sheeting and mosquito nets on board. It will also carry fuel to enable us to refuel the helicopters. We are aiming to set up a base in the town of Meulaboh, which we know has been one of the most heavily affected areas.”
An MSF team—currently numbering 40—has been working in the town of Banda Aceh since Tuesday night and is using four mobile teams to bring medical care along the coast. According to Ibrahim Younis, logistics expert with the team, “The town is about 60 percent destroyed and there are shortages of food and water in some areas. There are still corpses on the streets. There is a huge amount of work to be done in this town alone, but the situation along the northwestern coast is even worse. We have carried out assessments by helicopter and car and are treating people who have been stranded for days with virtually nothing.”
The ship will be used as part of a logistical set-up, which also includes MSF helicopters, planes, and cars. “We want to do what we can to provide help and support to bring some relief to these devastated areas. In this way, we hope to contribute to the efforts to alleviate a tragic situation,” said Dr. Gerd Leipold, Executive Director of Greenpeace International.
MSF relief efforts in several of the countries severely affected by the earthquake are experiencing serious logistical difficulties in bringing in aid. Airports are becoming blocked so that planes bringing supplies are unable to refuel and land. In Aceh there is an almost a total lack of fuel and transport. In Sri Lanka, many roads are blocked, especially in the coastal regions.