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MSF Continues To Provide Medical Care to Afghan Refugees Despite Intensified Military Activity
November 9, 2001
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is continuing to work within Afghanistan, despite renewed intensity of fighting and limitations on both movement and the delivery of supplies within the country. In six camps around Mazar-I-Sharif for displaced people, MSF continues to provide primary care, sanitation and shelter. In one case, Camp 65, MSF local staff have just completed the building of 50 mud houses, with an eventual target of 500. There are also six supplementary feeding centers—one of which just opened —serving 500 children and 200 pregnant and lactating women.
MSF's Afghan staff is working under very difficult conditions and has limited ability to make contact outside Afghan borders. Even so, they managed to conduct an assessment of the isolated Sar-I-Pul area southwest of Mazar, where conditions for a large number of displaced people had deteriorated since MSF's last visit before September 11. Currently, there are 6,000 people living with only primitive shelter to protect them from the freezing early winter, and sanitation is a growing problem. Respiratory infections and diarrhea are among the health concerns, and MSF had previously planned a clinic and latrines. Now, the team also plans to conduct a full-scale nutritional survey and a measles vaccination campaign.
MSF is also continuing work further south, around Herat, where pediatric care in the hospitals and therapeutic feeding continue in the hospital. Similarly, in Badghis, MSF oversees ongoing supplementary feeding and outpatient work.
Not all MSF projects have survived the growing chaos and insecurity. Some have closed because it is simply too dangerous for the staff to be there. Other projects have been affected by looting. All MSF activities in the Taliban-held regions of the country have been limited by the absence of expatriate volunteers and by the restrictions on supply.
Recently, internationl MSF volunteers have been moving back to work in the Panjshir Valley, which is held by the Northern Alliance forces near the front line with the Taliban. They are now supporting the work of our national staff in hospitals and clinics in Gulbahar and Rokha. The outpatient department at Gulbahar treats roughly 140 people per day.
Elsewhere in the Northern Alliance areas, MSF projects in Takhar and Badakhshan are intensifying their activities. A charter plane has delivered 20 tons of medicine and equipment for the area, and a new mobile clinic has just started work in the Khoja Budhein region. At every location, MSF teams are stocking up for the difficult snow conditions that are anticipated to arrive with winter.
In Pakistan, MSF teams continue to work in the large Jalozai refugee camp near Peshawar. They are also operating in new Killi Faizo settlement to the south near Chaman, where they are treating Afghan refugees with vaccinations and providing basic health care and sanitation for some 2,200 people. Many refugees reach the camps with stories of terrifying journeys, and many who have come from Kandahar have been very close to the intensive bombing. They tell stories of the ground shaking, of homes being hit, and of looting and armed men seeking shelter.