With lives at stake, MSF is denied access to East Timor

"We can be operational within hours. Every day matters in saving a life."
Press release : Darwin, Australia: September 21, 1999 - The international humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is present in Darwin with 14 international staff, 26 tonnes of medicines, sanitation material and shelter and is ready to intervene in East Timor - but access has been denied. MSF is requesting that the UN take urgent measures to prioritise humanitarian cargo and personnel and allow the humanitarian community immediate access to assist these people in need. Although the International Force East Timor seems to control the airport, harbour and town of Dili, MSF and all other NGOs are not permitted to enter. It is reported that the needs of the 10,000 people in Dili and the 190,000 seeking refuge in the surrounding hills for the last two weeks, are enormous. It is known the people are suffering from diarrhoea, malaria and malnutrition and are in urgent need of medical attention. "I can't understand why they are not allowing us to go to Dili and help these people" said Susanne Cristofani, Medical Coordinator expelled two weeks ago from the hospital in Baucau. "We can be operational within hours. Every day matters in saving a life. As a medical person it is hard to understand that for three days now dozens of journalists have been transported by the UN and military planes and we have to sit here and wait". Before being expelled from East Timor, MSF was supporting health care in the districts of Liquisa and Baucau. Teams were providing training, rehabilitation, medecines and medical equipment. Until the expulsion of our surgical team on September 7th, 1999, MSF was providing the only remaining surgical service in the east of the province.