Lootings Force Suspension of Several MSF Programs in Afghanistan

New York/Brussels, October 18, 2001 — This week, several compounds of the international aid agency Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Afghanistan were looted. The compounds, in the cities of Mazar-I-Sharif and Kandahar, were crucial bases for the provision of medical and nutritional aid to the Afghan population. As a result of these lootings, Afghans in six provinces have been cut off from vital assistance.

After 20 years of civil strife and three years of drought and food shortage, the Afghans now also suffer the effects of near complete isolation. The toll on the civilian population is bound to be high if the situation does not change soon.

With virtually no access left to international aid, the people of Afghanistan should have the right to seek safety either inside or outside their country. MSF asks that the authorities in place not only do their utmost to respect what little assistance is still available, but also allow unhindered access for all civilians to those locations where they can still receive food and medical care. MSF is also extremely concerned with the closing of all international borders with Afghanistan and the containment of the population.

Although MSF was forced to withdraw its international staff from Taliban-held Afghanistan shortly after September 11 due to increased insecurity, the Afghan staff managed to continue giving vital assistance to the populations in their regions. With the closure of two important regional bases, this assistance is now being denied to large regions in the north and south of the country.

In two provinces under control of the Northern Alliance, MSF continues its programs with international and Afghan staff.