April 04, 1999

New York, April 5, 1999 — The international medical relief agency Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) appealed to the Macedonian authorities today to grant aid agencies unhindered access to the refugees stranded on the border with Kosovo. The sanitary and medical conditions on the ground have deteriorated considerably over the last few days.

"The fact that aid agencies have been prevented from providing the necessary assistance is totally unacceptable," said Dr. Lex Winkler a director of MSF, in Blace. "We have the capacity to intervene but the authorities continue to deny us the authorization to deploy our teams and equipment."

Aid agencies have been facing serious administrative delays in Macedonia and Albania since the beginning of the emergency. MSF has appealed to the authorities in both countries to speed up customs procedures, cut administrative delays, and grant free access to the population in need for humanitarian agencies, as required by international law.

The organization is also concerned about the effectiveness of the humanitarian coordination mechanism in Macedonia. "It is essential that this operation be coordinated by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; only UNHCR has the legitimacy to lead this major humanitarian emergency," said Dr. Winkler.

More than 40 MSF volunteers are at work in Albania, Montenegro, and Macedonia.

MSF is the world's largest independent international medical relief agency aiding victims of armed conflict, epidemics, and natural and man-made disasters, and others who lack health care due to geographic remoteness or ethnic marginalization. Each year the organization sends more than 2,000 doctors, nurses, other medical professionals, and logisticians to provide medical aid in more than 83 countries.

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