MSF Offers Humanitarian Assistance to Refugees on Norwegian Ship

Medical Team Dispatched to Christmas Island, Australia

Sydney, Australia, August 30, 2001 — The international medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is sending a medical team to Christmas Island, Australia, to provide independent humanitarian assistance to refugees stranded aboard the Norwegian ship Tampa since Sunday, August 26.

MSF has offered to provide medical assistance to the over 400 primarily Afghan refugees on board the ship until they are granted access to proper health care on land.

MSF requests that the Australian government give the refugees on the ship immediate access to Christmas Island on humanitarian grounds. Providing medical care and assistance to the refugees should be the first priority.

The MSF team, including a doctor, nurse, and logistician, has previous experience working in Afghanistan and is familiar with the living conditions faced by Afghan civilians.

Having worked closely with refugees and displaced people in Afghanistan and the region for over twenty years, MSF understands well that the vast majority of Afghans are fleeing war and persecution. After two decades of conflict, the Afghan population is now also facing its fourth year of drought and continuing poor harvests. The local populations' traditional coping mechanisms have been stretched to the limit over the last few years. In the past months, MSF teams working in Afghanistan have responded to scurvy and an ongoing cholera epidemic.

MSF has been working in Afghanistan since 1980 and provides humanitarian aid on all sides of the conflict. MSF's projects in Afghanistan focus on access to basic medical care for the Afghan population, and for women and displaced people in particular.