26 October 2015


A patient infected with TB is treated by a member of MSF staff within a prison in Donetsk, Ukraine, where MSF is helping to treat patients infected with TB. 
Photo:Manu Brabo

Ukraine: Immediate termination of MSF medical activities in Donetsk will have life-threatening consequences for thousands of people

On 19 October, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) received written notification from the Humanitarian Committee that its accreditation in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic had been withdrawn and to immediately stop activities. The organisation was not provided with a reason for this decision. MSF has up until now coordinated all its activities with the authorities and is willing to continue this collaboration for the sake of the health of thousands of vulnerable citizens of DPR.

“We are extremely concerned by this move, which will deprive thousands of people of life-saving medical assistance,” says Bart Janssens, MSF Director of operations. “This decision will have life-threatening consequences for the patients MSF is now leaving behind. We are urging the DPR Humanitarian Committee to reconsider the decision without delay in order that we can resume providing much-needed healthcare.” 

Since the beginning of the conflict in May 2014, MSF has donated medication and material to 170 medical facilities to treat war-wounded and patients with chronic diseases. MSF has also conducted more than 85,000 consultations together with the local healthcare authorities through 40 mobile clinics since March 2015, providing healthcare to people living in places from where doctors and nurses have fled or where pharmacies are empty. 

MSF psychologist Tanya Novosyolova talks with Mila at her home in Ilovaisk, Donetsk region.
Photo: Corinne Baker

We are almost the only organisation providing treatment for tuberculosis in prisons, insulin for diabetic patients and haemodialysis products to treat kidney failure,” continued Janssens. “With the termination of our activities from one day to the next, thousands of patients suffering from chronic potentially fatal diseases will be now left with little or no assistance.”

MSF is currently providing 77 percent of the insulin needed for patients aged over 18 with diabetes in the area under DPR control. Teams also supply 90 percent of the products necessary to conduct haemodialysis treatment, vital for patients suffering from kidney failure. “Without the steady supply of these life-saving treatments, severe health complications can occur. There are very few back-up options for these people now that MSF has stopped its activities. We are deeply saddened that so many patients will be left behind,” says Janssens.  

Dr Wael during a consultation with a patient at MSF’s mobile clinic in the village of Stepanovka, Donetsk region. 
Photo:Amnon Gutman

Some 150 patients in the penitentiary system who live with drug-resistant tuberculosis will now no longer have access to the treatment that MSF has been providing since 2011.

“There is a huge risk that the health of these patients will deteriorate soon.  Any interruption of treatment of patients with drug resistant TB is known to reduce dramatically the prospects of cure, even if they restart treatment later,” adds Janssens. “Prisons in Ukraine are known to have very high numbers of drug resistant TB, and if these treatments are interrupted, this will lead to a major risk to public health.” 

Today, MSF urgently requests the Humanitarian Committee to reconsider the withdrawal of the organisation’s accreditation in order that it can resume life-saving medical activities.

As a medical organisation we ethically cannot accept being forced to abandon our patients. The decision must be reviewed so crucial healthcare can be once more provided to those in need,” concludes Janssens.

MSF has been working in eastern Ukraine since 2011 and has been providing medical-humanitarian aid through mobile clinics and donations to health care facilities on both sides of the conflict since May 2014. MSF is an international non-governmental humanitarian organisation dedicated to providing free humanitarian and medical assistance to victims of conflict, natural disasters, epidemics or people excluded from the health care system. MSF was founded in 1971 and provides assistance in more than 60 countries. MSF does not take sides in any conflict, is independent of all political, military and corporate agenda, and provides medical care to people on the basis of need alone, regardless of gender, race, religion or political affiliation. MSF relies only on private donations for its work in Ukraine and does not accept funding from any government.
Read more about MSF activities in Ukraine