Recent lootings create setbacks, but programmes continue in Afghanistan

The looting of the MSF compounds in in Mazar-i-Sharif and Kandahar last Monday has been a serious setback for the aid MSF is able to deliver in the Taleban held areas of Afghanistan. Mazar is the main base for the MSF in five northern provinces and Kandahar for some of the projects in the south. However the MSF Afghan staff in Mazar are still continuing the programmes on a limited scale. It is not clear who was responsible for the lootings in Mazar. The staff were unharmed. In Mazar-I-Sharif, MSF has resumed its mobile clinic operations, which provide medical care to internally displaced people in camps surrounding the city. In addition, the organization continues to perform consultations in 19 district health centers serving approximately 400,000 people. With the MSF vehicles taken in the looting, the team has been using local taxis to service the mobile clinics. MSF programmes in Herat, Kabul and Bala Morghab are continuing virtually unchanged, although the measles vaccination and the general feeding programmes have been suspended. However MSF continues to run a nutritional feeding center, serving almost 8,000 children, in the province and to support the paediatric ward of the Herat hospital, where MSF has been providing approximately 1,600 consultations per month. MSF has issued a press release on these incidents, the main message being, against the backdrop of a rapidly deteriorating situation, the Afghan people must have the choice to seek safety and aid elsewhere, also across borders. Meantime, MSF has strengthened its team in the northern provinces, which are under the control of the Northern Alliance. An emergency team is investigating the main health problems in Khoja-Bahadein and will set up new projects if necessary. MSF remains in the Panjshir Valley to the north of Kabul. With several thousands of Afghans being held up at the Chaman border crossing with Pakistan, there is continuing uncertainty about the fate of the majority of Afghan civilians and about the displacement within the country.