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These stories from our aid workers and patients illustrate the impact of the emergency medical work Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) does around the world.
The MSF Generation
Somalia 2011© MSF
“MSF is saving a lot of people–children and adults–who might otherwise have died, from malnutrition or from preventable causes. There are no other agencies anywhere near here, and we are the only organization providing assistance–in terms of both health care and food–in this region. We have been doing this for years.
Let me tell you a story: before MSF opened its hospital in Marere in July 2003, the region had very few young people, because so many were dying from preventable diseases. Now, if you take a simple walk around the town, you will see many youngsters who maybe wouldn’t be here today if we hadn’t given them immunizations and medical treatment. People jokingly call any child under the age of 11 “the MSF generation.”
—Hussein Sheikh Qassim, MSF medical activities manager in southern Somalia, July 2011
Caring for Women Trapped by Violence
DRC 2011 © Yasuyoshi Chiba
“I’m proud to work for Doctors Without Borders...we can genuinely look all of our donors in the eye and say, ‘Your money is making a difference; your money is saving lives.’
Nothing could prepare me for the first time I entered the Doctors Without Borders hospital in Masisi. I was immediately confronted by several women about to deliver, an emergency case being carried on a stretcher, and a baby being resuscitated in the corner.
I’ve also worked in Uganda and Kenya, but DRC was altogether new because we were providing virtually the only health care in a war zone. At any one time, we had up to 70 women preparing to go into labor and fighting for their lives. The perception is that the majority of people who die in the Congo die as the result of the violence. Yet it’s lack of access to health care, especially for the women but also for the children under five, which is definitely the biggest killer.
The physical process of giving birth is the same the world over. But what’s not the same is access to medical care, trained staff, surgical interventions, drugs, and materials. I believe all women deserve this access and no woman should risk dying during childbirth just because she lives in the ‘wrong’ part of the world. That’s why Doctors Without Borders is so important here. We’re delivering health care to people who need it.”
—Sam Perkins, MSF midwife, Masisi conflict zone in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), October 2011
Ivory Coast 2011 © Didier Assal/MSF
“I arrived in Abidjan, the commercial capital of Ivory Coast, just as this city was nearly paralyzed by brutal conflict. I joined a team that three weeks earlier had started supporting the only functioning hospital in the city’s most volatile neighborhood. I was one of only two surgeons on the medical team.
I’ve gone on several assignments for Doctors Without Borders, but it has never been in such an acute or violent emergency. Yet I could see that our very presence gave people hope. While we can’t save everyone, or bring an end to the fighting, we can save the lives right in front of us, and let people know they are not alone.”
—Dr. Cristiana Bertocchi, MSF surgeon from Pittsburgh, PA, Abidjan, Ivory Coast, March 2011