MSF seriously concerned for the people of Darfur left without healthcare following an order to remove international staff from relief projects

The Government of Sudan has told Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) it must remove all international staff from a number of projects in west and south Darfur by Wednesday, March 4, 2009. The projects, located in Zalingei, Niertiti, Muhajariya and Kalma, provide medical care and humanitarian relief to displaced and resident populations. The explanation given by the Government is that it cannot assure the security of MSF international staff in view of the expected announcement of the International Criminal Court (ICC) ruling regarding Sudan's President. As a result of the removal of MSF staff, people will be rendered even more vulnerable. In some locations, where MSF is the sole medical provider, they will have no access to healthcare at all. This has already resulted in the cessation of MSF activities in Muhajariya, including the closure of the hospital, a location where MSF was only recently able to return following weeks of fighting early this year. In Niertiti, MSF will be forced to stop medical services due to the departure of all medical personnel as a result of this order. This comes at a time when meningitis cases have been confirmed in Niertiti and Kalma camp, temporary home to 90,000 internally displaced persons. MSF firmly reiterates that the organisation is completely independent of the ICC, and that MSF does not cooperate or provide any information to it. It is critical that humanitarian aid remains independent and impartial, to ensure that essential medical aid reaches those who need it. MSF calls on all parties to the conflict to respect and facilitate our work, and to ensure the swift return and safe presence of our international staff.