Press release, Islamabad, Oct 8, 2001: The international medical aid
agency Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which has been working in
Afghanistan since 1979, today cast doubt on the so-called 'humanitarian
airdrops' by US and British military forces, which have accompanied the
military strikes against Afghanistan over the last 24-hours. Such action
does not answer the needs of the Afghan people and is likely to undermine
attempts to deliver substantial aid to the most vulnerable.
MSF's Dr Jean-Hervé Bradol, speaking from Pakistan, explained that the
so-called 'humanitarian' action, was in fact a purely propaganda tool, of
little real value to the Afghan people.
Moreover, the deliberate adoption by the military of a 'humanitarian'
purpose, was likely to cause real problems for truly independent
non-governmental aid organisations who are less likely to be perceived as
impartial actors in the future.
"How will the Afghan population know in the future if an offer of
humanitarian aid does not hide a military operation?" questions Dr
Bradol. "We have seen many times before, for example in Somalia, the
problems caused for both the vulnerable population and for aid agencies
when the military try to both fight a war and deliver aid at the same
Dr Bradol explained that the real impact of the much-vaunted 37,500 single
day rations on the burgeoning nutritional crisis within Afghanistan was
likely to be minimal.
"What is needed is large scale convoys of basic foodstuffs, rather
than single meals designed for soldiers. Until yesterday the UN and aid
agencies such as ourselves were still able to get some food convoys into
Afghanistan. Due to the airstrikes the UN have stopped all convoys, and we
will find delivering aid also much more difficult."
Doctors from MSF also expressed concern at the reported airdropping of
medical supplies. "Medical relief is not the same as dropping
medicines by plane. Unless they are administered by qualified medical staff,
medicines can actually do more harm than good", said Dr Bradol.
"Dropping a few cases of drugs and food in the middle of the night
during air raids, without knowing who is going to collect them, is
virtually useless and may even be dangerous".
Médecins Sans Frontières therefore rejects the idea of a humanitarian
coalition alongside the military coalition, as requested by President Bush
and Prime Minister Blair, and calls for the imperative necessity of
independent humanitarian action.