MSF forced to suspend lifesaving medical activities after restrictions imposed on its work.
Khartoum/Barcelona – As a result of increasing restrictions imposed by Sudanese authorities, the medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been forced to suspend most of its medical activities in the conflict area of Jebel Si, in Sudan’s North Darfur state. MSF is the sole health provider in the region.
“With the reduction of our activities in Jebel Si, more than 100,000 people in the region are left entirely without healthcare,” said Alberto Cristina, MSF’s operational manager for Sudan.
Over the past year, increasing obstacles have put MSF’s work under threat. No shipments of drugs or medical supplies have been authorised since September 2011, while MSF has encountered growing difficulties obtaining work and travel permits for its staff. Meanwhile, transport options to and from Jebel Si have been cut.
Without medical supplies or sufficient staff, MSF can no longer provide either outpatient or inpatient consultations, and its vaccination programme has had to close. For women with complicated deliveries, lifesaving caesarean sections are no longer possible. Stocks of mosquito nets and delivery kits for pregnant women have run out, as have nutritional supplies.
With MSF staff no longer able to stabilise critically ill patients, they have no choice but to refer patients to the hospital in El Fasher, eight hours’ drive away. This is particularly hazardous for women with emergency obstetric complications, who have a poor chance of surviving the journey.
MSF is currently only able to provide limited nutritional healthcare, antenatal consultations and health education.
“If we are not allowed to deliver medicines and supplies to our hospital and health posts soon, disease outbreaks are likely to occur, and maternal and perinatal deaths are likely to increase and may even reach emergency levels,” said Cristina.
Maternal mortality rates in the region are critical, and outbreaks of preventable and treatable diseases such as meningitis and measles are common as well as malnutrition. Over the past two years, the MSF team in Kaguro has treated 1,805 children under the age of five for malnutrition.
MSF began providing medical assistance in the Jebel Si region in 2005, through a single health post, and by 2008 was running a rural hospital in Kaguro and five health posts throughout the region. These are the only health facilities in this area, and serve a permanent population of approximately 100,000 people, as well as about 10,000 seasonal nomads, all of whom are entirely dependent on MSF for healthcare and emergency assistance.
There are no local health services in the region, and no other international organisations providing medical assistance. The nearest Ministry of Health facilities are several hours’ drive away, but insecurity in the area, as well as mountainous terrain and poor roads, makes access extremely difficult.
“MSF is hopeful that the situation can be resolved,” says Alberto Cristina. “The organisation is ready to resume activities once the restrictions on its work are lifted. When medical supplies, logistical equipment and international staff are once again able to reach the region, MSF medical teams are ready to provide lifesaving medical care to the people in Jebel Si.”
MSF calls on the government of Sudan to grant the necessary support so that it can resume its work and provide vital medical aid to the people of the region.
MSF’s report on the situation, Somebody Help, will be released today, 22 May. The report has already been shared with the government of Sudan along with urgent requests for restrictions on MSF’s work to be lifted.
MSF started working in Darfur in 1985, and has been providing medical care in the region continuously since 2004. Currently, MSF works in various locations in North Darfur, including Shangil Tobaya, Tawila, Dar Zaghawa, as well as in Shaeria locality in South Darfur, providing a range of services including primary and secondary healthcare, as well as responding to emergencies.