MSF Launches Two New Medical Projects in Afghanistan

Valérie Batselaere/MSF
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November 9, 2001 — Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) this week opened two new assistance programs in southwest Afghanistan for internally displaced people near the Iranian border, at Mile 46 and Makaki. The Makaki mission is one of the first new MSF project to open in a Taliban-controlled area of Afghanistan since all international MSF staff were evacuated on September 14.

In cooperation with the Iranian Red Crescent, MSF has set up clinics in both camps to provide medical consultations, particularly for women. With many patients suffering from infectious diarrhea, MSF teams are also installing a rehydration unit, an isolation zone, and an observation tent with beds.

Although borders between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Afghanistan are officially closed, Afghans fleeing war, hunger, and persecution have gathered in the desert between the provinces of Nimroz in Afghanistan and Sistan Balouchistan in Iran. "The camps are located in a desert area - there is nothing but stones and sand. There's no shade anywhere," describes Pierre Pascal Vandini, an MSF physician recently returned from Iran.

There are currently 800 people in the camp at Mile 46, located in a zone controlled by anti-Taliban forces, and nearly 8,000 in Makaki, located inside Taliban-controlled territory. "The situation is worse in Makaki, where most of the families are not even aware of the fact that there is a doctor in the camp," says Dr. Vandini.

MSF teams describe the extreme vulnerability of the populations who have gathered in these camps. Displaced families in the camp have arrived from all over Afghanistan with few of the resources necessary for survival.