Additional Doctors Without Borders Section Expelled from Darfur

Valérie Batselaere/MSF
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Major Medical Activities Forced to Halt; People of Darfur Held Hostage to Political and Judicial Agendas; MSF Calls on Sudanese Government to Repeal Decision and Allow Resumption of Vital Assistance

Geneva/Paris/Khartoum/New York, March 5, 2009 – Sudanese authorities in Khartoum this morning demanded the immediate expulsion of a second section of the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) from Darfur.

The decision to expel the French section of MSF, brutal and sudden, follows the expulsion yesterday of the organization’s Dutch section. MSF is appalled by this order, which clearly holds the needs of the population of Darfur hostage to political and judicial agendas. The organization protests the order in the strongest of terms and appeals to the government to repeal these decisions and allow MSF to resume independent and impartial humanitarian assistance immediately.

“The order to expel MSF from Darfur is a dramatic turn of events that will have unprecedented consequences for the people of the region. Much of the population of Darfur is totally dependent on international humanitarian aid,” said MSF International President Dr. Christophe Fournier. “The sudden halt of our medical programs, including vital surgical, nutrition, and basic healthcare programs in large areas of Darfur will have an immediate and devastating impact on the population.”

The vast needs of the population left unaddressed by the expulsion of so many aid organizations leaves a huge void in assistance, impossible for any remaining agency to adequately fulfill. The basic needs of hundreds of thousands of people will now go unmet, be they medical, food, and water and sanitation. Outbreaks of meningitis in Kalma Camp and Niertiti—where an estimated 130,000 people are in urgent need of vaccination—risk going completely unanswered.

The remaining sections of MSF working in Darfur are committed to continuing to provide medical care in the areas where they are working. However, this is a far cry from addressing the extent of the needs throughout Darfur.

”The ability to provide independent humanitarian assistance in Darfur has been drastically diminished over the past year, but the actions of the Government of Sudan this week risk cutting off humanitarian assistance for displaced and local populations in large areas of Darfur,” added Dr. Fournier. “The needs of the population are falling prey to political and judicial ends, which is wholly unacceptable. We appeal to the government to immediately repeal its decision and allow for independent and impartial humanitarian assistance for the people in Darfur.”

MSF firmly reiterates that the organization is completely independent of the International Criminal Court and does not cooperate with or provide any information to it.

MSF has been working in Sudan since 1979 and in Darfur since 2003. While MSF has now been expelled from delivering critical healthcare in five areas of West and South Darfur, including Feina in Jebel Mara, Kalma, Muhajariya, Niertiti and Zalingei, MSF teams continue to provide care in West Darfur in Golo and Killin, and in North Darfur in Kebkabiya, Kaguro, Serif Umra, Shangil Tobaya and Tawila. Prior to the expulsion, more than one hundred MSF international staff and approximately 1,625 MSF national staff worked tirelessly to deliver essential medical aid to hundreds of thousands of people throughout Darfur.