Médecins Sans Frontières Condemns Use of Medical Aid for Military
Objectives; Reported Ruse Risks Damaging Trust Critical for Health Workers and Humanitarian Aid
15 July 2011 – The United States government’s alleged misuse of a
vaccination campaign in Pakistan for counter-terrorism purposes constitutes a dangerous abuse of medical care, which threatens the trust essential for health agencies and humanitarian aid workers to provide lifesaving medical services, the international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières said today.
“Whether true or not, the mere suggestion that the provision of medical
care was carried out under false pretences damages public perception of the true purpose of medical action,” said Dr. Unni Karunakara, Médecins Sans Frontières’ international president. “With all populations in crisis, it is challenging enough for health agencies and humanitarian aid workers to gain access to, and the trust of, communities — especially populations already
sceptical of the motives of any outside assistance.”
Deceptive use of medical care also endangers those who provide legitimate
and essential health services. Furthermore, carrying out an act of no
therapeutic or preventative benefit purely for military or intelligence
purposes violates medical ethics, which require acting solely on the needs
of patients and doing no harm.
Impartial humanitarian assistance requires acceptance from all communities
and warring parties – whether national governments, armed opposition
movements, international forces, or even criminal groups. In all conflicts
or highly politicised environments, this access can only be achieved by
actions that demonstrate humanitarian providers are acting only in the
interests of those receiving care.
“The alleged fake CIA vaccination campaign constitutes a grave manipulation
of the medical act,” said Dr. Karunakara. “The risk is that vulnerable
communities—anywhere—needing access to essential health services will
understandably question the true motivation of medical workers and
humanitarian aid. The potential consequence is that even basic health care,
including vaccination, does not reach those who need it most.”
Médecins Sans Frontières is an independent medical humanitarian
organisation that provides assistance to people affected by armed
conflicts, epidemics, man-made and natural disaster, and exclusion from
health care in more than 65 countries.
Médecins Sans Frontières has been working in Pakistan since 1986, providing
free medical assistance to displaced communities and to Afghan refugees, to
victims of conflict, and to people with limited access to care. In Khyber
Pakhtunkhwa Province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Médecins
Sans Frontières teams are present in Kurram Agency, Hangu, Lower Dir,
Peshawar, Malakand and Swat districts.
Médecins Sans Frontières is also working in Balochistan and Sindh
Provinces. To ensure its independence in Pakistan, Médecins Sans Frontières
solely relies on private financial contributions from individuals around
the world and does not accept funding from any government, donor agency, or
from any military or politically affiliated group.