MSF alarmed by imminent

PRESS RELEASE Jakarta, Indonesia December 30th - The religious conflict in the Malukus (Christian vs. Muslim) is spreading and engulfing ever greater areas and island populations. Given the escalating level of violence and lack of resolve or capacity on the part of the authorities to prevent or stop it, MSF is now extremely worried that the vulnerable population mostly concentrated in camps will very soon be left totally unprotected and isolated.

Today, a significant percentage of the population no longer has access to healthcare. This is most notable in the healthcare system where MSF has a direct involvement - essential drugs cannot be delivered to many of the clinics that dot the island. People are often unable to access healthcare facilities because the area health facility is in the zone of the other religion and health staff are unwilling to take the risk of crossing religious lines.

The weapons of the conflict in the Malukus have changed from a swords and spears to guns and bombs, this is evidenced by the higher casualty rates. The percentage of gunshot wounds now exceeds 90%. Yet, there is a desperate shortage of physicians which frequently leaves a hospital without a doctor. As no one comes to fill these critical positions, people continue to die for this reason.

"As the situation deteriorates, more people will die as they are left without care", said Richard Rowat, programme responsible in Ambon. "The risks are getting bigger that children will die of curable diseases as the parents can not get access to health care".

Presently there are in excess of 100,000 recognized Internally Displaced People (IDPs) throughout the Malukus and at least an additional 80,000 IDPs in the Sulawesi island group having come from the Malukus. Most of the IDPs have been forced to stay away from their homes for almost one year, without any prospect for them to return in the foreseeable future. On the contrary, insecurity obliges them to continue fleeing.

MSF has been in the Malukus since its first assessment mission in February 1999, following the first round of religious clashes. MSF works with both Muslim and Christian communities. MSF provides water and sanitation for the IDPs, support for local health facilities in terms of drugs and trauma care equipment and a health surveillance system that monitors the incidence of diseases and deaths in the society.