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Doctors Without Borders Told To Close Last Healthcare Facility In Pakistani Tribal Region

Doctors treat a woman at an emergency medical center in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province
Doctors treat a woman at an emergency medical center in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) says the Pakistani government has told the international charity to close its last remaining facility in the violence-plagued tribal region along the Afghan border.

MSF on November 9 said that the Interior Ministry refused to issue it a “no-objection certificate," leaving it unable to provide medical services in the Bajaur Agency of the impoverished Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

It said the closure will bring to an end four years of MSF working in the agency.

The move comes less than two months after the Geneva-based charity, also known as Medecins Sans Frontieres, was told to close its facilities in FATA's Kurram Agency following 14 years of operation.

The aid group said it has 120 staff members, all Pakistani nationals, in Bajaur, which has a population of 757,000.

"Health care services are very limited in the area, and most of our patients cannot afford to pay even for basic medical care," said Azaad Alessandro Alocco, the group's representative in Pakistan.

"As the only major hospital providing free, quality health care in the area, the closure of MSF’s activities will leave a major gap and have serious negative implications for the health of people living in Bajaur," he added.

Reuters news agency reported that Pakistan's Interior Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Much of FATA has been subject to attacks by militant groups battling Pakistan's army the past decade, devastating health care, education, and housing services.

On September 17, Pakistani officials said a roadside bomb blast killed a government administrator and six tribal police officers in Bajaur. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

With reporting by Reuters and The Express Tribune

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