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Peshawar

September 14, 2017

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NGO stopped from working in Kurram Agency

NGO stopped from working in Kurram Agency

PESHAWAR: The Directorate of Health Services in Fata Secretariat, Peshawar, has stopped the Medecins Sans Frontieres from working in Kurram Agency.

The MSF, also known as Doctors Without Borders, was apparently stopped from working after the security agencies refused the ‘no objection certificate’ (NOC) to the international non-governmental organisation.

According to MSF officials, all the staff members working in their two health centres were Pakistani nationals.

Dr Mujahid Khan, a senior health department official in Sadda subdivision, the administrative town of Lower Kurram Agency, confirmed to The News that he had issued the letter to MSF and stopped its operations.

However, he said that he had received instructions from his bosses at the Fata Health Directorate in Peshawar to issue the letter to MSF after the organisation was refused NOC for working in Fata.

He said he did what exactly his bosses in Peshawar directed him to do. “I really don’t know the reason behind stopping MSF from its operations,” he argued.

Director General Health Services for Fata, Dr Jawad Habib could not be reached despite repeated attempts by this correspondent to seek his version. His phone was constantly found switched off. Some people at the Fata secretariat said he was out of the country.

Dr Jawad Habib is the nephew of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Iqbal Zafar Jhagra.

Another official of Fata Health Directorate, Dr Mohammad Ishaq, however, told The News that MSF was stopped from its operations as it didn’t have an NOC from security agencies to work in Fata.

He appreciated the services that MSF had been providing to the patients in the remote and insecure areas of Fata.

“I personally think MSF was doing a great job for the patients in Fata and has a wonderful contribution in provision of health services but since it was denied NOC therefore it was stopped from working,” said Dr Ishaq. He said he had no idea why MSF was refused an NOC. He, however, hoped MSF would get an NOC to resume its services in the tribal areas.

A senior official associated with MSF said they were providing services in two hospitals in Kurram tribal region. One hospital was set up in Sadda and another in Alizai.

“We had been working in Fata since 2004 and we were never denied an NOC in the past. It will definitely affect the patients in the area after our services are closed down,” the MSF officials said on condition of anonymity.

He said they had deployed 70-plus staff members in the two hospitals.

The MSF later issued a statement to the media and confirmed it was stopped from providing services in Kurram Agency.

The security agencies have made it mandatory for all the national and international NGOs and other social welfare organisations to seek prior NOC from the security authorities before working in Fata.

The MSF in a statement said ?that “no objection certificate (NOC) for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders, to continue medical activities in Kurram Agency has been refused by the authorities. MSF has been given no reason as to why the NOC has been refused. MSF is saddened by the decision from the authorities responsible for NGOs working in Kurram Agency. The closure brought to an end 14 years of MSF working with the Fata health services in Kurram Agency,” said Country Representative Catherine Moody.  

The statement added: “We will, as much as possible continue to provide Obstetric and newborn services to the women of Fata through the MSF Women’s Hospital located in Peshawar.”

MSF has informed its team members in Kurram Agency, the elders of Sadda and Alizai and the local community about the decision.  

The necessary measures to close the health services provided by MSF in Kurram Agency have started and should be completed within the week deadline, it said in the statement.

MSF has been working in Kurram Agency since 2004. Since 2008 it has been present in the Tehsil Headquarters Hospitals in Sadda and Alizai.

In Sadda, MSF has been responsible for the outpatient department for children under five years and inpatient department for severely ill children up to 12 years of age. 

The newborn unit treated newborn babies who are born prematurely and those experiencing complications immediately after birth.  

In case of complicated deliveries, the team used to facilitate emergency referral to tertiary care hospitals in Peshawar by providing ambulance services and medical transfer staff.

MSF also managed emergency transfers to specialist maternity facilities including MSF’s Peshawar Women’s Hospital.

According to MSF officials, the organisation provided the ambulances, transfer staff and all medical support required during the transfer. 

“In addition, MSF provides diagnosis and treatment facilities to the community for Leishmaniasis, immunisation for children, as well as supporting the Ministry of Health and FDMA in responding to emergencies, disease outbreaks and mass casualties,” MSF said in the statement.

In Alizai, MSF was responsible for the outpatient department and observation room for children under 12 years.

In 2016, in Sadda and Alizai, 36,498 and 6,416 outpatient consultations were conducted respectively. 

“The Sadda hospital admitted 1,946 patients and treated 414 patients for Cutaneous Leishmaniasis. A total of 736 children were admitted to the newborn unit during 2016,” it explained in the statement.

It’s said MSF has been working with Pakistani communities who are affected by natural disasters, conflicts or lack of access to healthcare, since 1986.

It said MSF teams are currently providing free emergency medical care in Kurram and Bajaur tribal regions, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Balochistan provinces. It added that MSF relies solely on private financial contributions from individuals around the world and does not accept funding from any government, donor agency or military or politically-affiliated group for its activities in Pakistan.

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