Amman/New York, November 4, 2004 - Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is closing its programs in Iraq. The international humanitarian organization took the decision in view of the extreme risks currently run by aid workers in the country. Given the still considerable humanitarian and medical needs of the Iraqi people, the decision was reached with a great degree of regret and sadness.
Due to the escalating violence in the country, MSF considers it no longer acceptable to expose its staff to the serious risks that apparently come with being associated with an international humanitarian organization.
"It has become impossible for MSF as an organization to guarantee an acceptable level of security for our staff, be they foreign or Iraqi," says Gorik Ooms, General Director of MSF in Belgium. "We deeply regret the fact that we will no longer be able to provide much needed medical help to the Iraqi people."
MSF has always adhered strictly to its principle of independence and has never allowed political, military or other motives to interfere with the objective of assisting those who need medical aid urgently. In Iraq today, the warring parties have repeatedly shown their disrespect for independent humanitarian assistance.
MSF has been present in Iraq since December 2002. During the bombing of Baghdad a small team of international aid workers stayed in the city to assist in the hospitals. Soon afterwards, MSF set up three clinics in Sadr City and began supporting a referral hospital. The clinics have provided around 100,000 medical consultations since January 2004. During the course of this year, MSF assessed needs in cities which endured heavy fighting - Fallujah, Najaf and Kerbala - and supported health workers there. The organization also added an ambulance service to its activities in Sadr City. Recently, MSF became involved in caring for displaced people from Fallujah.