20 December 2012 — Regardless of who is responsible for the recent escalation of attacks against health workers in Pakistan, the targeting of medical personnel has created a situation in which both patients and medical workers are at risk of losing their lives while seeking or providing healthcare, the international organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said today.
As a medical humanitarian organisation working in Pakistan since 1986, and currently operating activities throughout the country, MSF condemns the attacks on medical workers, and strongly reiterates the need to fully respect the medical mission by ensuring the safety and security of patients, medical staff and health facilities.
“A hospital or a vaccination site needs to be a safe location where medics can perform their duty, and patients can receive the urgent assistance they need,” said Arjan Hehenkamp, MSF general director. “We call on all actors to restore the respect for the medical act.”
Acceptance from all communities, political and military groups is the only way medical actors, including MSF, can work in Pakistan. This acceptance is based on the fact that medical activities have a singular objective: the provision of impartial medical care to anyone in need, and based on those needs alone.
Last year, the already fragile perception and acceptance of vaccination in Pakistan was further undermined by the alleged misuse of this medical activity by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), in its attempt to gather intelligence leading to the killing of Osama Bin Laden.
MSF does not carry out mass vaccination campaigns in the country, despite the significant need for them.
“The reality is that in our facilities, we are treating people suffering from preventable conditions,” said Hehenkamp. “Part of the solution is to conduct mass vaccinations, but we simply cannot consider it within this climate of rumors and suspicion, which is deadly for both patients and health workers.”
Since 1986, MSF has been working in Pakistan with Pakistani communities and Afghan refugees who are victims of armed conflict and natural disasters or who lack access to medical care. MSF teams are currently providing free emergency medical care in Kurram Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, and Sindh provinces.
MSF relies solely on private financial contributions from individuals around the world for its work in Pakistan and does not accept funding from any government, donor agency or military or politically-affiliated group.