EMERGENCY UPDATE: Doctors Without Borders Aid Operations in South Asia

December 31, 2004 - Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) emergency teams are on the ground in South Asia providing assistance to people affected by last Sunday's earthquake and the resulting tsunamis and carrying out multiple needs assessments in several countries in the region. To date, MSF has sent over 40 aid workers and 110 tons of relief materials to the region. Additional aid workers and relief cargos are en route and more will be deployed as needed.

Equipment and supplies bound for Indonesia leaving from Ostend airport in Belgium. © Tomas Van Houtryve



MSF has started bringing medical aid to people in Aceh, Indonesia, a region devastated by last Sunday's earthquake and the resulting tsunamis. A team of 17 aid workers is currently working in the region. An MSF team arrived in Banda Aceh on December 28 with six tons of medical supplies and set up a clinic in a camp for displaced people.

Yesterday in the area of Tvri, the MSF team performed medical consultations for more than one hundred people, including those suffering from infected wounds and respiratory infections, and plans to conduct mobile clinics starting today.

Cargo plane being loaded at Ostend airport in Belgium. © Tomas Van Houtryve

Two cargo planes with approximately 70 tons of medical and sanitation materials have arrived in Medan in north Sumatra, close to Aceh. The cargo includes generators, water bladders, and tanks, plastic sheeting, mosquito nets, chlorination kits, and a hospital tent.

"When we arrived yesterday evening in Banda Aceh we found the town half destroyed," said Sabine Rens, head of mission for MSF in Indonesia, on Thursday. "Three camps for displaced people have been set up in the town. As well as running a clinic, we are providing medical support to one of the hospitals."

Sri Lanka

MSF has sent 19 aid workers, including doctors, surgeons, nurses, and logisticians, to Sri Lanka. Additional staff are en route. A charter plane with 40 tons of aid supplies arrived today in the capital Colombo. In addition to relief materials, the cargo contains the equipment and supplies to set up three hospitals to care for 30,000 people for a period of three months.

One of the MSF teams is assessing the situation in Ampara, also in the eastern province, to determine the needs of the people affected by the disaster. They are distributing non-food items and opening mobile clinics. At least 5,700 people in the district were killed and more than 90,000 have been displaced. Another MSF team is conducting an assessment of the situation in the eastern coastal town of Batticaloa, where the United Nations estimates that more that 650 people have died and 40,000 more have been left homeless.


An MSF team is conducting an assessment in Chennai, the capital city of India's Tamil Nadu state, and further south to Nagapattinam district and the city of Pondicherry. The coastal area has been severely affected and families are still searching for missing people. There has been a strong response from the government and local communities.

MSF teams are also carrying out needs assessments in Malaysia, Thailand, and Myanmar (Burma).