Dutch Section of Doctors Without Borders Expelled from Darfur

Valérie Batselaere/MSF
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Hundreds of Thousands Will be Left Without Critical Medical Aid

Nairobi/Khartoum/Amsterdam/New York, March 4, 2009 – The Government of Sudan today informed the Dutch section of the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) that they are expelled from Darfur. This follows a previous order issued March 2 for MSF to remove all international staff from a number of project sites in Darfur. The organization is outraged at the decision, which leaves more than 200,000 of its patients without essential medical care.

MSF was summoned to meet with Sudanese authorities shortly after the announcement by the International Criminal Court (ICC) regarding the indictment of Sudanese President Omar el-Bashir, and was told that it must cease all activities and prepare staff for immediate departure from the country. No further explanation for the decision was given. The Dutch section of MSF runs medical activities in three sites in south Darfur, in the areas of Kalma, Muhajariya, and Feina.

This expulsion comes at a time when meningitis, a deadly disease if left untreated, has broken out in Kalma Camp, a temporary home to more than 90,000 internally displaced persons. It also leaves an estimated 70,000 people without any access to healthcare in Muhajariya, due to the closure of the area’s only hospital, and forces the closure of health clinics in and around Feina, where MSF treats an average of 3,000 people each month.

MSF firmly reiterates that the organization is completely independent of the ICC, and that it does not cooperate or provide any information to the court.

“It is absurd that we, as an independent and impartial organization, have been caught up in a political and judicial process,” said MSF-Holland Operational Director, Arjan Hehenkamp. “MSF has worked tirelessly to deliver medical aid to the people of Darfur since the beginning of the crisis. It is completely unacceptable that the people of Darfur are being deprived of essential medical care.”

Since May 2004, MSF-Holland has been providing care in South Darfur’s Kalma Camp, home to more than 90,000 displaced people and one of the country’s biggest camps. The number of patients at the MSF clinic there doubled in 2008, in part because a number of health care providers stopped working in the camp. In and around Muhajariya, a large town in South Darfur, MSF provides medical care to approximately 70,000 people. In the eastern Jebel Marra region, MSF runs a small outreach clinic that is the main health center for thousands of displaced people living in the mountains. MSF staff treats about 3,000 patients a month in Feina and through a mobile clinic in Gulombei.

At this moment, other MSF sections continue to work in a number of locations throughout Darfur.