The medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontiers (Doctors without Borders) urged donors Tuesday to stop sending it money for Asian tsunami victims, saying it had collected enough funds to manage its relief effort there.
In an unusual step, the group’s branches in France and Germany said they had 40 million and $27 million respectively, enough to finance emergency medical aid projects they were supporting in Sri Lanka and Indonesia.
Their decision surprised other aid groups and drew criticism that it could undercut an unprecedented wave of private giving to provide relief to the region devastated by the Dec. 26 tsunami which has killed at least 150,000 people.
“It’s the first time we are led to take this kind of decision,” MSF Director General Pierre Salignon said.
“This might seem to run counter to the mood of general mobilization, but it’s a question of honesty toward our donors. We don’t want to continue to lobby the public for projects that are already financed,” he said in a statement.
A spokesman for MSF’s German branch, Aerzte Ohne Grenzen, said it had adopted the same policy.
“What shocks me is that you are taking the risk of pulling the carpet under the feet of other aid organizations. Many groups still need more money,” said Jean-Christope Rufin, head of the French aid group Action Contre la Faim (Action against Hunger).
“It’s a bit irresponsible. We’re all in the same boat in humanitarian aid,” Rufin told France 2 television.
Some German agencies said they had no plans to follow suit and privately several said they were shocked by MSF’s decision.
“MSF mainly provides emergency aid, whereas Unicef stays on. We build schools, carry out vaccination programs and so on. For us this is just the beginning and that’s why we still need donations,” said Astrid Prange of Unicef Germany, which has received more than 10 million euros in pledges.