MSF says Sudan blocks drugs for Darfur project

AFP, Wednesday 23 May 2012

Doctors Without Borders describes situation in Sudan's Darfur as 'critical', after government blocked shipments of medicines to a violence-plagued part of turbulent region without giving clear reasons

A displaced Sudanese girl stands at Otash IDP'S camp in Nyala, southern Darfur, March 18, 2009. (Photo: Reuters)

Sudan's government has blocked shipments of medicines to a violence-plagued part of the Darfur region, leaving more than 100,000 people without vital healthcare, Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres - MSF) said on Wednesday.

"We are in a critical situation over there," Olivier Fauritte, head of MSF Spain in Sudan, told AFP.

No drugs have been able to reach the Jebel Si area since September, leading MSF to suspend its local hospital in Kaguro, Fauritte said.

"The government of Sudan did not give us any clear reason for not allowing the cargo to reach Jebel Si project," he said, adding that MSF was the only medical service provider in that area.

Jebel Si is a mountainous area more than 100 kilometres (62 miles) west of the North Darfur state capital El Fasher, in a region where anti-government rebels have been active.

Medicines must be flown by helicopter from El Fasher to the nearest airstrip in Sortony but flights have been cancelled without explanation, Fauritte said.

The helicopters are operated by the United Nations World Food Programme air service.

Fauritte said MSF is the only aid organisation in Darfur currently facing this problem.

Even though they have no drugs to work with, all 72 local MSF staff have remained in the area "to try to support the population," he said.

No foreign staff have been allowed back to Jebel Si since the last one left several months ago, he added.

The area is plagued by banditry, meaning people risk their lives if they try to go further afield for medical care, he said.

A separate statement from MSF said it can no longer offer medical consultations in Jebel Si, its vaccination programme there has closed, and lifesaving caesarean sections are no longer possible for pregnant women.

"MSF is currently only able to provide limited nutritional healthcare, antenatal consultations and health education," it said.

Critically-ill patients now have to be referred to the hospital in El Fasher, an eight hour drive, MSF added.

Sudan's ministry of foreign affairs could not immediately comment.

Elsewhere in Sudan, the government has cited security concerns in severely controlling access for foreign relief agencies to South Kordofan and Blue Nile states, where it is battling insurgencies.

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