1982 – France 2 - MSF in Salvadoran Refugee camps in Honduras 1982


MSF dans les camps de réfugiés salvadoriens au Honduras – in French


We're in Honduras, a few kilometres from the border with El Salvador. For the last four months, a Médecins sans Frontières team has been assisting a population traumatised by the latest events in El Salvador, now refuge in the region of La Virtud.
- MSF: "In the past, the village of La Virtud was totally neglected by the Honduran government. It’s true, it’s very remote. The villagers aren't used to outsiders at all. When we showed up, even though people were friendly, it was pretty clear they had little idea why we were here. So, our first challenge was integrating into the different local groups. We made contact with the military, the authorities and the grass roots organisations. »
It's 7am. Like every Wednesday, a US helicopter has just made contact with La Virtud's military chief.
As well as his work as a doctor, the team often relies on Willy to handle its relationship with the local authorities.
- Vincent Jeannerod, MSF: "In July 1980, MSF started looking at El Salvador. A team - which I was part of - left in August to make a quick assessment of assistance possibilities for the Salvadorans. After three weeks of investigations and meetings with all the humanitarian groups and key political figures - from the government and the opposition - we concluded that it was too dangerous to work inside the country. So we contacted the High Commission for Refugees and a humanitarian organisation called CEDEN ("Evangelical Community for National Development and Emergencies"), which we'd already worked with in '71 during Hurricane Fifi, and with CEDEN we explored all 200 km of the border strip, where some 15 000 Salvadoran refugees had settled. Three weeks later, an MSF team of four set up in La Virtud village, providing healthcare services that had been non-existent for the previous eight months. Their work was mainly seeing to the health needs of Hondurans and Salvadorans in the health centre, and above all, going into all the little hamlets of five or six Honduran families, where another ten or twenty Salvadoran families had amassed, and treating these people that were hidden away, terrorised by their experiences on the other side of the border. »
Commentary: The team is currently made up of three doctors and two nurses. They divide up activities between them on a daily basis, covering both the hamlets and consultations in La Virtud's health centre. Let's take a look at a place known as La Majada.
- Bruno Bordelin, MSF: "Here a home built of packed earth and tiles which previously housed one Honduran family now houses seven, eight, nine or ten Salvadoran families - all looked after really well by the Hondurans. This situation actually involves the diseases of poverty and under-development rather than any disease particular to this country. The Salvadorans don't want to settle in the camps, they prefer being scattered around the countryside. Many of them are scarred by the war, traumatised. There's high numbers of psychosomatic disorders, and shock. They were shocked by the war, they're scared. They've got highly varied disorders that are absolutely not organic. They’re just suffering from .... how can I put this? From fear. They're fearful, these people. »
-MSF: "The number of refugees has dropped recently as they're scared of the Honduran army. They've even more scattered across the mountain. Here, we're close to the road. People decided they needed to go wider afield. »
-MSF: "We're in a transmission period right now because until recently there was only the health centre. It's been running for a few years and it’s only staffed by a nursing assistant whose role is limited to distributing medicines to patients. As from this week, this hospital - funded by MSF - is finished and has opened its doors. We've got four hospitalisation rooms, two big and two small, which hold a maximum of fifteen beds. There's also a laboratory and another room that could be set up as a small surgery and delivery room, if we get the material we need. »