Subject: Business as usual for MSF doctors in E Timor despite Nobel Prize

Business as usual for MSF doctors in East Timor despite Nobel Prize

DILI, East Timor, Oct 16 (AFP) - They may have just won a Nobel Peace Prize, but it was business as usual Saturday for the Medicins sans Frontieres (MSF) team in Dili, the razed capital of East Timor.

In fact, Wayne Ulrich, MSF head of mission in Indonesia, was keen to play down the news, saying he was uncomfortable taking credit when surrounded by a plethora of other aid agencies fighting just as hard in the circumstances.

"You have to be careful, how much you take the credit, with everybody here doing the same work as you." he told AFP.

"It is nice to get recognition when you work for an organisation for a long time, but it is a bit uncomfortable when there are other organisations which try just as hard as us."

Other than a celebratory drink and a round of applause from UN colleagues, the MSF team operating in this devastated territory, were in bed early and back to work at sunrise.

"It is business as usual. It has got to be that way," said Ulrich, an Australian who has been with MSF, also known as Doctors without Borders, for 10 years.

Urgent supplies are needed in the West Timor border area, at Maliana, where pro-Jakarta militia are still active and no aid agencies are present.

A convoy was leaving Saturday and last-minute preparations were underway at the MSF headquarters on the road to Dili's airport.

The Portuguese mansion that is their headquarters escaped the destruction during the week of unchecked pro-Indonesia rampage that followed the announcement of the pro-independence results of a UN ballot early last month.

A pharmacy annexed to the building was the only casualty of the violence.

"Our guards explained to the militias that these were expatriates doing good work and they largely left us alone," Ulrich said.

MSF, who returned to Timor hot on the heels of the international peacekeepers, are establishing a semi-permanent hospital in Maliana.

They already run a hospital in Baucau and clinics in Viqueque and Liquisa.

At the Dili stadium in the centre of town, MSF doctors were Saturday checking and treating refugees just returned from Kupang in West Timor, where they had fled or been forced to flee the violence in East Timor last month.

Dutch doctor Saskia de Vries diagnosed a case of measles among the new arrivals in Dili. It was the first such case detected by MSF doctors in Dili.

"This is the first case I have seen of measles and it is ironic, as we are going to start a measle vaccination program on Tuesday," she said, adding that with planeloads of refugees arriving daily, winning a Nobel Peace Prize took a back seat.

Along with the UN Children's Fund and the World Health Organization, MSF has been spearheading the mass innoculation in Dili of more than 15,000 children aged under five whose immune systems have been drainned by months of poor nutrition and exposure to the elements.

MSF has been in and out of East Timor for the past two years but only established a major presence in East Timor prior to the territory's vote for independence.

"There were other agencies here, and there were more pressing needs in other Indonesian places such as Aceh, Kalimantan and Ambon, which were all falling apart," said Ulrich

MSF is retaining a presence in Aceh, West Kalimantan, Ambon, Irian Jaya, West Timor and Jakarta and will stay in East Timor "for however long it takes," Ulrich said.

"We do not work with a timetable. If there is a need, then we will stay," he said.


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