NAIROBI (AlertNet) – Government restrictions have forced Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) to suspend work in parts of Sudan’s North Darfur state, leaving more than 100,000 people with no access to health care, the medical charity said on Tuesday.
MSF has stopped most medical activities in the conflict area of Jebel Si in North Darfur because of increasing difficulties in getting supplies and staff to its rural hospital and five health posts. It 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,” Alberto Cristina, MSF’s operational manager for Sudan, said.
War broke out in Sudan’s west in 2003 when Darfur rebels took up arms against the government, accusing it of neglect. The government responded with a brutal counter-insurgency campaign.
The United Nations says as many as 300,000 people may have died and hundreds of thousands more have been displaced.
Violence has subsided, but rebel and tribal fighting and banditry still plague the territory.
No shipments of drugs or medical supplies have been authorised since September 2011 and MSF has encountered growing difficulties obtaining work and travel permits for its staff, the charity said in a statement.
Without medicines or staff, MSF is only able to provide limited nutritional healthcare, antenatal consultations and health education.
Patients needing treatment now have to travel to El Fasher hospital eight hours’ drive away, across mountainous terrain with poor roads.
“This is particularly hazardous for women with emergency obstetric complications, who have a poor chance of surviving the journey,” MSF said in a statement.
The majority of patients are women and children seeking assistance with pregnancy, childbirth, immunisation and malnutrition. But delivery kits, nutritional supplies and mosquito nets have run out.
“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,” Cristina said.
Deaths from complications during pregnancy and childbirth are already high in the region, malnutrition is widespread and outbreaks of preventable and treatable diseases such as meningitis and measles are common. Over the past two years, MSF treated 1,805 children under the age of five for malnutrition in the Kaguro area of Jebel Si.
MSF began providing medical assistance in the Jebel Si region in 2005.
There are no local health services in the region, and no other international organisations providing medical assistance.
MSF has called on the government to lift its restrictions on the charity’s work.