Pakistan government asks separatist militant groups to stop fighting so they can get help to survivors of earthquake

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: Now, what happens when you have not just a war zone, but a natural disaster as well? This week an earthquake jolted the Balochistan Province in Pakistan and hundreds of people have been killed. It's hard enough getting aid to survivors in any situation, but separatists are battling the government in Balochistan and they haven't let up. They've even fired on an aid helicopter. Chris Lockyear manages relief operations in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan for Doctors Without Borders. He says his organization is no stranger to delivering aid in conflict zones.

Chris Lockyear: I'm basically, our modus operandi, our way of doing this if you like is to speak to parties in a complex and to negotiate our access, our ability to put teams in as close to the conflict as we can, but where we can treat as many people as possible. Each, each case is, is always unique, but in each case we speak to everybody involved and try and ensure that we can get our teams safely to where they can be most effective.

Werman: I mean Doctors Without Borders though is one group, it seems that a lot of local first responders of Pakistani doctors just do not want to go to this part of the country.

Lockyear: Yeah, I mean it's a very complex area. The Province of Balochistan, we have several projects in already as Doctors Without Borders, and it usually takes us a long time to setup these programs because, you know, the situation is so complex, but it's a natural disaster on top of a situation like this is unique, I mean not unprecedented. We've had in previous earthquakes and inside different areas of Balochistan, and generally in that case we tend to find that it becomes simpler in a way because, you know, the need for people to receive medical care is obvious, and our response can be immediate.

Werman: Chris, just tell us what Doctors Without Borders is doing in response to this earthquake in Balochistan.

Lockyear: We have a team in Karachi that's been put together from the rest of our projects already active in Pakistan. They're ready to go as soon as we get authorization, and when we believe that we can get safe passage to the area. At the same time we're reinforcing our teams in Pakistan with medical staff, with water and sanitation engineers, with project coordinators, with logisticians to support them.

Werman: When you say safe passage are you counting on the Pakistani government to essentially protect Doctors Without Borders as you go into Balochistan and once you're there?

Lockyear: What we're talking about when we say safe passage is an agreement from anybody that could have influence over our security to respect our medical mission and to allow us to enter the area unhindered and be able to carry out basic medical activities unhindered. So we're basically looking for people to tell us that they accept our presence there and for people to respect a neutral and impartial medical intervention.

Werman: And what's the policy at Doctors Without Borders in terms of your own people traveling armed? I suspect that you don't allow guns for your doctors.

Lockyear: Our policy is that we don't allow guns for our doctors, absolutely. We rely on negotiating with all the parties of the conflict. We are a neutral organization, so we're not aligned to any government or any private organization other than ourselves. And basically we gain our access to any zone, conflict zone or post-conflict zone or non-conflict zone, by speaking to the people on the ground, and their bosses and their bosses' bosses to try and ensure that we will be left unharmed and be able to carry out without our programs and save as many lives as we can.

Werman: Chris Lockyear with Doctors Without Borders, thanks so much for your time.

Lockyear: Thank you and you're welcome.

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