Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is shocked by and strongly refutes the false allegations made in the media by the Humanitarian Committee of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) regarding its medical-humanitarian activities. This includes erroneous statements regarding mismanagement of pharmaceutical products such as psychotropic drugs, criticism of the organisation's mental health program, and unfounded accusations of espionage.
For the last 18 months, MSF has been working hard to provide free, life-saving medical care to people affected by the conflict on both sides of the front line. All MSF activities, including the transportation, storage and distribution of medicines as well as mental health activities have at all times been carried out in cooperation and coordinated with the authorities in DPR.
While MSF received official notification of the withdrawal of its accreditation to work in DPR on 19 October, at no time has the organisation been given formal clarification of the reasons behind the decision to halt activities. MSF is extremely concerned by the decision to cancel our accreditation and the order to cease medical activities, which will deprive thousands of people of life-saving medical assistance.
In order that life-saving medical care can continue to be provided to the population, MSF remains willing to collaborate with the authorities, and continues to call for an urgent review of the decision to halt its activities.
Mental healthcare vital in Ukraine to assist people suffering the psychological consequences of conflict
The provision of psychological care is a key component of MSF's activities in many conflict zones. MSF was running a mental health program in DPR until July 2015, when it was asked to stop by the Humanitarian Committee. MSF strongly disagreed with this decision as mental health counselling is a crucial part of medical activities to help people deal with the consequences of conflict. Before this, MSF had been counselling people about emotional reactions following traumatic events, and teaching them practical tools to help cope with fear, anxiety, and nightmares. In addition, MSF psychologists were training local medical and mental health staff to improve their skills and avoid burnout. In DPR, MSF had conducted more than 3,400 mental health sessions including individual counselling, group counselling sessions and trainings in more than 35 locations.
Psychotropic drugs: a crucial component of medical kits
In line with medical protocols, psychotropic medications are an essential component of medical kits provided by MSF to health facilities where doctors treat war-wounded, patients with chronic conditions such as epilepsy, and people with mental illnesses. Each medical kit contains all the necessary supplies to appropriately treat patients and are distributed based on requests of the health facilities. The psychotropic medications were donated to the public health system in order that patients could receive them from their regular doctor. All donations of medicines and medical supplies are coordinated with, and reported to, the health authorities.
More information on MSF activities in DPR
Since the beginning of the conflict in May 2014, MSF has donated medication and material to 170 medical facilities to treat war-wounded and patients with chronic diseases. MSF has also conducted more than 85,000 consultations together with the local healthcare authorities through 40 mobile clinics since March 2015, providing healthcare to people living in places from where doctors and nurses have fled or where pharmacies are empty. MSF is almost the only organisation providing treatment for tuberculosis in prisons, insulin for diabetic patients and haemodialysis products to treat kidney failure. With the termination of activities from one day to the next, thousands of patients suffering from chronic potentially fatal diseases will be now left with little or no assistance.
MSF is currently providing 77 percent of the insulin needed for patients aged over 18 with diabetes in the area under DPR control. Teams also supply 90 percent of the products necessary to conduct haemodialysis treatment, vital for patients suffering from kidney failure. Without the steady supply of these life-saving treatments, severe health complications can occur. There are very few back-up options for these people now that MSF has stopped its activities.
Some 150 patients in the penitentiary system who live with drug-resistant tuberculosis will now no longer have access to the treatment that MSF has been providing since 2011. There is a huge risk that the health of these patients will deteriorate soon. Any interruption of treatment of patients with drug resistant TB is known to reduce dramatically the prospects of cure, even if they restart treatment later.