December 11, 2009

MSF Requesting Authorization to Provide Assistance in Dera Ismael Khan

Islamabad, December 10, 2009 - The massive influx of an estimated 300,000 people who fled fighting in South Waziristan is straining the capacity of hospitals in the Dera Ismael Khan district to meet the needs of displaced and resident populations. Despite the assistance provided by authorities, acute medical needs are not being met in D.I. Khan hospitals.

Islamabad, December 10, 2009 - The massive influx of an estimated 300,000 people who fled fighting in South Waziristan is straining the capacity of hospitals in the Dera Ismael Khan district to meet the needs of displaced and resident populations. Despite the assistance provided by authorities, acute medical needs are not being met in D.I. Khan hospitals.

The private international medical organization, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), is ready to set up an emergency medical program to provide free treatment to patients for which it requesting authorization from Pakistani authorities.

Last week an MSF team was able carry out a rapid assessment of the medical needs in three of the main hospitals in D. I. Khan District, and two rural health centers situated in areas where many of the displaced families are living.

“We saw real needs for staff, medicines, hygiene, and materials, which are essential to respond adequately to emergency care, notably in the emergency rooms, maternity, and surgical departments of the main hospitals,” said Thomas Conan, MSF country representative in Pakistan.

Over the last weeks, the district hospital has seen a 30 to 40 percent increase in the number of emergency room admissions. Currently, people needing surgical referrals outside D.I. Khan are mainly referred to Peshawar hospitals. While medical expenses and costs of transport are manageable for some, they represent an insurmountable barrier for numerous vulnerable families within the displaced and resident populations in D.I. Khan.

“MSF has the capacity to send medical teams composed of international and national staff to provide free surgery and emergency care to the people most in need in the region,” said Conan. “But so far, the presence of international staff is being refused by authorities.”

Between May and July, 2009 MSF received authorizations to send an orthopaedic surgical team to treat trauma cases, as there had been no local infrastructure providing free treatment to patients requiring specialized surgery. In July, however, military authorities asked MSF to leave the area for security reasons. For the past two months, MSF has been requesting authorizations for independent access to the area to provide emergency medical care with a team of national and international staff.

“As an international, private medical organization, we believe that the presence of an international medical team reinforces the independence of our work,” said Conan. “We are asking authorities to allow us to provide similar support to the population in D. I. Khan as we have done in other areas of the country.”

Currently, a team of international and national staff provides support to health structures in Lower Dir, where displaced people have been arriving from Bajaur Agency. Earlier this year, when over one million displaced people fled to Mardan District, MSF teams supported local health structures by running a 40-bed inpatient department, two emergency rooms, and a 24-hour-a-day maternity service, providing health care for several thousands of patients.

MSF does not accept funding from any government for its work in Pakistan, relying solely on private donations. Since 1998, MSF has been providing medical assistance to Pakistani nationals and Afghan refugees suffering from the effects of armed conflicts, poor access to health care, and natural disasters in NWFP, FATA, Balochistan and Kashmir.

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