Since october 2006, MSF (Doctors Without Borders) is engaged in providing health services to the people in the naxal and salwa judum affected region of Dantewada. Its doctors are doing a commendable job in providing desperately needed medical treatment to the adivasis, sufferring from malnutrition and such diseases as Malaria and Pneumonia, years of government apathy, and embroiled in violent clashes between the Salwa Judum and the naxalites. MSF has listed the conflict in central India as one of the 10 most underreported humanitarian stories of 2006.
On its work in Chhattisgarh, MSF website states,
MSF started a medical program in Chhattisgarh in the heart of India where civilians suffer from a brutal war between Maoist movement and the state-supported Salwa Judum. As a result of this conflict more than 50,000 people are displaced and living in makeshift camps or hiding in the forest areas. MSF-volunteers are providing medical treatment to villager’s -many of them children- who have been displaced by the conflict. As a result of the conflict people have lost their means of livelihood and as a result malnutrition has become a major problem. MSF also supports a feeding center in one of the main camps in Dharnapal.
MSF operates from two bases in Sukma and Dantewada
Now the government of Chhattisgarh and the Dantewada district administration have denied them permission to carry on their work. The allegations against them, and the reasons cited by the collector, is that the rebels are getting their injured colleagues treated by the doctors associated with MSF. MSF was asked to treat only those who are living in the camps.
From Daily Chhattisgarh, 7th August 2007:
Denying medical treatment to anyone, armed combatant or otherwise, is a blatant violation of Geneva convention. Citing this as a reason for barring the humanitarian efforts of MSF robs the thousands of adivasi families of their only chances of getting decent healthcare. This is amidst some reports that Chhattisgarh government has stopped all health and educational facilities in the remote villages since the launch of Salwa Judum. cgnet has published some letters and affidavits from people living on the other side of Indravati river of Dantewada, the region typically identified as the strong naxalites’ den. Two of them can be read here and here.
MSF has termed the Dantewada administration as misinformed for its action. In their press release on 8th August 2007, they claim that the authorities in Raipur never mentioned the accusations and apprehensions by the police in their recent meetings.
“At best The Dantewada district administration has been misinformed, “says Hans van de Weerd, head of mission of MSF in New Delhi. “At worst the district administration may not understand the well-established international principles of independent humanitarian aid.”
These principles obliges our organization to provide medical support to those people most in need as a result of an ongoing conflict, irrespective of their beliefs, religion, race and caste or what side of the conflict they live in. To choose whom to treat based on where they live would be inconsistent with those principles and unjust.
Medical assessments undertaken by the organization indicated that serious medical needs existed in both camps and remote villages of Dantewada and Bijapur district.
Between October 2006 and July 2007 MSF treated over 8,000 villagers many of them women and children in both affected camps and villages. MSF provided its services free of charge.