MSF started working in Hong Kong in 1988 during the height of an influx of Vietnamese boat people. For 10 years, we provided medical services in refugee camps in Sham Shui Po, Tuen Mun and Pillar Point, and detention camps in Whitehead, High Island, Chi Ma Wan and many other sites, in conjunction with UNHCR, the Hong Kong Government and other NGOs.
We ran outpatient clinics with medical referral services, offered antenatal care and extended programmes of immunisation, and launched psychological support programmes. We gave health education, which focused on the prevention of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases and conducted a harm reduction needle exchange programme for heroin addicts.
Opposing the forced repatriation of the Vietnamese boat people, MSF asked to be present during such operations and acted, from 1994 onwards, as an independent monitor to report any human rights abuses. We stayed in the camps until most of the Vietnamese boat people were properly resettled or repatriated, in early 1998.
During the SARS outbreak in Hong Kong in 2003, MSF set up an information, education and communication programme at the peak of the epidemic and mobilised more than 100 medical and nursing students and local medical doctors to bring SARS prevention messages to public housing estates and ethnic minority communities.
Against the backdrop of the outbreak of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the city at the end of 2019, MSF medical emergency team arrived in Hong Kong and has started a project focusing on health promotion and mental health awareness for those most at-risk and vulnerable people such as street cleaners, refugees, asylum seekers, foreign domestic helpers, homeless people, the elderly and visually impaired persons, and people living in subdivided flats. The team has conducted face-to-face sessions to share up-to-date, evidence-based medical information to those people, and helped answer some questions that this new disease has generated. We have also contributed to supporting frontline health workers by sending a donation of one tonne of personal protective equipment and an additional 11,000 pairs of gloves to the Hong Kong St. John Ambulance service.