TIMERGARA:(By Haleem Asad) An International medical association, the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) on Friday announced it was withdrawing its entire international staff including ten medical experts, from Timergara by 13 September. Talking to a group of local journalists the MSF Country representative in Pakistan, Ms Shelagh Woods said the withdrawal was due to administrative constraints the organisation was facing with and the impossibility to obtain non-objection certificates (NOC) for international staff to be present in Timergara at the moment. “The MSF remains fully committed to providing high quality free medical services to the population of Lower Dir and hopes to resolve the administrative constraints quickly so the international team can return as soon as possible,” she said.
“Despite the immense support we have received from the community elders and civil, health and military authorities in Lower Dir, unfortunately we have been unable to find a solution to the administrative problem yet and have to withdraw our international team”, says Shelagh Woods.
In district head quarter hospital Timergara the MSF had been providing 24/7 emergency medical care, maternal and newborn care, emergency obstetrics and gynaecological surgery, post-operative care and blood bank services. “All services will remain open and run by MSF’s qualified Pakistani staff,” it said.
She said that she did not know when the international team would be allowed to return but they were extremely concerned that if the absence was prolonged, it would seriously compromise the ability to provide quality, free emergency medical services to the community. “The workload for our Pakistani medical team will become overwhelming and they will not receive the constant supervision, training and support from their international expert colleagues,” she said.
The Government of Pakistan is currently developing a new process for registering and regulating international non-government organisations. MSF’s interim permission expires on 15 September and is therefore currently unable to obtain non-objection certificates necessary for its international staff to travel and work in Timergara. The MSF is trying to obtain a new interim permission and will comply with the new laws and regulations as required, she adds.
The MSF has been working at Timergara since 2009 and has around 353 staff. Each month, there is an average of 10,000 people seen in the emergency room, 700 deliveries in the maternity and 100 emergency surgeries carried out. Timergara DHQ is also the referral hospital for the Malakand region and receives patients from as far away as Chitral, Upper Dir and Bajaur Agency. It also responds to outbreaks of diseases such as measles, dengue fever and diarrhoea, and remains the only health facility in the district with a Mass Casualty Plan in place. All MSF’s services and medications are provided free-of-charge.