MSF sends a medical team to Christmas Island, Australia

MSF to offer medical assistance to refugees on the Norwegian ship Tampa
Press release: Brussels, Belgium/Sydney, Australia, 29th of August 2001 - The international medical aid organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is sending a medical team to Christmas Island (Australia) to provide independent humanitarian assistance to the refugees stranded since Sunday. MSF has offered medical assistance to the Norwegian ship Tampa carrying over 400 refugees on board, until they are granted access to proper health care on land. MSF requests that the Australian government gives the refugees on the ship - most of whom are Afghan - immediate access to Christmas Island on humanitarian grounds. Providing medical care and assistance to the refugees should be the first priority. The MSF team, including a doctor, nurse and logistician, has previous experience working in Afghanistan and is familiar with the living conditions faced by Afghan civilians. Working closely with refugees and displaced in Afghanistan and the region, it is clear for MSF that the vast majority of Afghans is fleeing war and persecution. After two decades of war, the Afghan population is now also facing its fourth year of drought and continuing poor harvests. The local population’s traditional ‘coping mechanisms’ have been stretched to the limit over the last few years. In the past months MSF teams, working in Afghanistan, have responded to scurvy and an on-going cholera epidemic. MSF has been working in Afghanistan since 1980 and works on all sides of the frontlines. The organization gives special attention to access to basic medical care for the Afghan population, and for women and displaced people in particular.