Head of MSF mission remains missing - relief operations resume in Ingushetia

Geneva - MSF strongly reiterates its demand for the immediate and unconditional release of Arjan Erkel (see photo), Head of Mission in Dagestan, abducted August 12 in Makhachkala. MSF once again condemns the kidnapping of humanitarian workers in the Northern Caucasus.

However, MSF has decided to resume its activities in Ingushetia. This decision has been taken for the sake of the thousands of civilians in the republic who are in need of assistance after nearly a month of a suspension of activities. MSF operations in Ingushetia begin again today.

MSF distributes essential drugs and medical material to over thirty hospitals and clinics in Ingushetia. General, gynaecological and prenatal consultations are given to the IDP's and the local population through clinics and mobile clinics.

MSF also runs paediatric consultations in Ingushetia, as well as carrying out water and sanitation activities in the IDP communities, the rehabilitation of shelters and the distribution of relief items. MSF has decided to restart its activities in Ingushetia in order to continue its policy of attending to the humanitarian and medical needs of the IDP's and the civilian population. Activities were suspended in Chechnya following the kidnapping of Nina Davydovich, head of Druzhba, a Russian NGO.

All of MSF's operations in the Northern Caucasus were suspended after the kidnapping of Arjan Erkel, MSF's head of mission in Dagestan. Activities in Dagestan and Chechnya continue to be suspended. In Chechnya, however, MSF will continue to provide direct life saving assistance in case of emergencies which includes cooperation with surgical and maternity units. In order to monitor developments, MSF offices in Makhachkala, Khazaviurt and Grozny remain open.

MSF will continue to actively seek the immediate and unconditional release of Arjan Erkel, 32, a Dutch national who is still missing after his abduction by three gunmen in Makhachkala on August 12, 2002. MSF is an international medical humanitarian organization that provides medical and humanitarian assistance to victims of war, conflicts and disasters. This assistance is given without political, religious or ethnic discrimination. MSF is independent and is mainly funded by public donations from the 18 countries where it has representative offices.