Ukraine: MSF Strongly Refutes False Allegations by Donetsk Authorities

The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)  strongly refutes false allegations made in the media by the Humanitarian Committee of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) regarding MSF's medical humanitarian activities in Donetsk.

On October 19, MSF received written notification from the Humanitarian Committee that MSF's accreditation in DPR had been withdrawn. MSF was asked to immediately stop its activities, but it was not provided with a reason for the decision.

The Humanitarian Committee then made erroneous statements about MSF in the media yesterday. These included alleged mismanagement of pharmaceutical products such as psychotropic drugs, criticism of MSF's mental health program, and unfounded accusations of espionage.

For the last 18 months, MSF has been working hard to provide free, lifesaving medical care to people affected by the conflict in the region on both sides of the front lines. All MSF activities in DPR, including the transportation, storage, and distribution of medicines as well as mental health activities, have at all times been carried out in cooperation and coordinated with the authorities in DPR.

MSF is extremely concerned by the decision to cancel MSF's accreditation and the order to cease medical activities, which will deprive thousands of people of lifesaving medical assistance. In order that lifesaving medical care can continue to be provided to the population, MSF remains willing to collaborate with the authorities, and continues to call for an urgent review of the decision to halt its activities.

The provision of psychological care is a key component of MSF's activities in many conflict zones. MSF was running a mental health program in DPR until July 2015, when it was asked to stop by the Humanitarian Committee.

MSF strongly disagreed with this decision, as mental health counseling is a crucial part of medical activities to help people deal with the consequences of conflict. In DPR, MSF provided counseling about emotional reactions following traumatic events and taught practical tools to help cope with fear, anxiety, and nightmares.

In addition, MSF psychologists trained local medical and mental health staff to improve their skills and avoid burnout. In DPR, MSF conducted more than 3,400 mental health sessions including individual counseling, group counseling sessions, and trainings in more than 35 locations.

In line with medical protocols, psychotropic medications are an essential component of medical kits provided by MSF to health facilities where doctors treat war-wounded patients, patients with chronic conditions such as epilepsy, and people with mental illnesses. Each medical kit contains all the necessary supplies to appropriately treat patients and are distributed based on requests of the health facilities. The psychotropic medications were donated to the public health system so that patients could receive them from their regular doctor. All donations of medicines and medical supplies are coordinated with, and reported to, the health authorities.

Since the beginning of the conflict in May 2014, MSF has donated medication and material to 170 medical facilities to treat war-wounded patients and patients with chronic diseases in DPR. MSF has also conducted more than 85,000 consultations together with the local health care authorities through 40 mobile clinics in DPR since March 2015, providing health care to people living in places from which doctors and nurses have fled or where pharmacies are empty.

MSF is nearly the only organization providing treatment for tuberculosis in prisons, insulin for diabetic patients, and hemodialysis products to treat kidney failure. With the termination of MSF's activities, thousands of patients suffering from chronic, potentially fatal diseases are left with little or no assistance.

MSF has been providing 77 percent of the insulin needed for diabetic patients over age 18 in the area under DPR control. MSF has also supplied 90 percent of the products necessary to conduct hemodialysis treatment, vital for patients suffering from kidney failure. Without the steady supply of these lifesaving treatments, severe health complications can occur. There are very few back-up options for these people now that MSF has stopped its activities. 

Some 150 patients in the penitentiary system who live with drug-resistant tuberculosis will now no longer have access to the treatment that MSF has been providing since 2011. There is a huge risk that the health of these patients will deteriorate soon. Any interruption of treatment of patients with drug-resistant TB is known to reduce dramatically the prospects of cure, even if they restart treatment later.