Doctors Without Borders Halts Activities in Central Niger

Paris/Niamey, October 24, 2007 — On Monday, October 22, five men, one of whom was armed, attacked a team of Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) workers travelling in two vehicles by road from Agadez to Dabaga, in central Niger, where MSF has been providing medical care at the local health post since the start of October. The assailants seized the vehicles and their contents. The team of six—one doctor, one nurse, one logistics specialist, one pharmacist and two drivers—made their way to the nearest village on foot and were able to return to Agadez.

Following this violent incident, MSF has decided to cease activities in Dabaga and the surrounding region because the security situation is preventing the organization from adequately carrying out its work for the people living in this area. Moreover, this incident follows the October 16 theft of an MSF vehicle that was travelling on the same road to Dabaga.

MSF was preparing to file a complaint about the theft of the vehicle and the attack on the team when the Governor of the Agadez region officially requested that it "suspend all activities in the Agadez region." The six members of MSF's team in Agadez returned to the capital, Niamey, on Tuesday, October 23. For the moment MSF's work in Dabaga has ceased.

Dabaga, in the district of Aïr, is a town about 50km north of Agadez. At the start of October, with the authorities' agreement, MSF began providing medical, nutritional, and logistical support to Dabaga's health post. The program's objective was to improve the level of care in a region where violent clashes have disrupted access to health care. The MSF team had been conducting medical consultations in the health post, had started improving the supply of medicine and medical equipment, and was undertaking construction work to improve the buildings and ensure better hygiene and a clean water supply. Around 50 consultations were being carried out each day and scores of malnourished children had been admitted to the health post. Over the past week alone, 23 moderately malnourished children and 24 severely malnourished, had been admitted.

MSF is continuing its activities in the south of Niger, in the region of Maradi. MSF has worked in the Maradi region since 2001 and is currently operating a nutrition program based in one hospital and 12 health clinics. More than 8,500 children were admitted to this program in the third quarter of 2007, over 80 percent through MSF's outreach clinics. Alongside this program, between May and October MSF has been distributing special food supplements on a monthly basis to more than 63,000 children.