Doctors Without Borders Rushes Emergency Relief Teams and Supplies to Iran

New York/Paris/Brussels, December 27, 2003 - To meet the enormous needs caused by the earthquake in Iran, the international humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) is sending teams of aid workers to reinforce those MSF personnel already present in the city of Bam. Tomorrow, a team of four MSF aid workers will join two MSF physicians already working in Bam. MSF teams are also departing from Brussels (3 nephrologists, 1 medical coordinator, 1 logistician) and Madrid (1 doctor, 1 logistician) and are expected to arrive in the region tomorrow.

Ten tons of additional medical and relief supplies (medicines, emergency materials, water treatment, and 5000 jerry cans) are leaving by plane today from MSF's logistics base in Bordeaux. Medical stocks in Tehran (40 metric tons of medical and emergency supplies) and Baghdad (surgical material, 6000 hygiene kits, and 19,000 blankets) are already on their way to the region of Bam. Another 26,000 blankets will be airlifted from Dubai tomorrow morning.

Yesterday, an MSF team from Zahedan (300 km east of Bam) composed of two doctors, a nurse, an administrator, and driver carried out a rapid evaluation in the affected region together with the Iranian Red Crescent. The team is currently on site with first aid material.

The needs in Bam, a town of 110,000 inhabitants, are considerable: the city is almost completely destroyed, as are the two hospitals, and many bodies are being extracted from the ruins. Two medical structures set up after the quake are overwhelmed and are without water, electricity, or sufficient medicines. A field hospital has been set up at the Bam airport for the evacuation of wounded to Kerman, Ispashan, Zahedan, and Bandar Abbas.

The first MSF team in Bam has started supporting the two medical structures. The three nephrologists, who will focus on the treatment of "crush syndrome" (see note below), are expected to start working at the regional hospital of Kerman upon arrival. Other teams will travel to neighboring villages to provide aid to victims in the surrounding district of 250,000 inhabitants. Shelter, blankets, and potable water are indispensable for their survival in a region where temperatures can fall below freezing at night.

MSF has worked in Iran since 1995 in the regions of Mashaad and Zahedan with Afghan refugees. MSF also intervened during the earthquake which hit Iran in 1990.

NOTE: What is Crush Syndrome? Experience treating earthquake victims shows that kidney failure is a major cause of death among those who survive their initial injuries. In an affliction known as "crush syndrome," muscle tissue damaged after severe internal injury can release massive quantities of toxins into the bloodstream and lead to kidney failure. Left untreated, crush syndrome can be fatal.