January 31, 2013

South Sudan 2012 © Jason Van Dyke/MSF

Supplies being carried across a stream during a nearly 20-mile trek undertaken in South Sudan in 2012 to deliver aid to people affected by severe flooding.

MSF programs are run by "desks" in different headquarters offices around the world. Gwenola Francois, MSF-USA deputy program manager, talks about MSF-USA’s portfolio and the priorities for the year ahead.

We are now and will remain in charge of projects in Ethiopia, Haiti, and South Sudan. Workload related to country management changes depending on the contexts. New projects open, others close. Two countries like South Sudan and Haiti today can be equal to three or four countries in terms of activity, human resources, and budgetary needs. New desks open, too, like the one MSF now has in Dubai. So sometimes necessary to redistribute responsibilities. At times, we also might organize certain groups of countries, like the countries of the Sahel, for example, which have some common regional political dynamics, under desks in one office, for the sake of continuity.

In terms of our priorities, generally speaking, we have to manage the projects we are in charge of according to the evolving contexts and changing needs on the ground. This is particularly true for South Sudan, which is new to our project portfolio. It’s a large country with a complex context and huge health needs, some linked to ongoing conflict, some not. We have to manage the programs as efficiently as possible, take care of the security of our staff -- that is always a priority!-- and be ready to react to any new situations that arise.

Otherwise, we have our priorities set for the next few months, and then we will reevaluate according to the evolution of the contexts. We are always assessing, analyzing, and reorienting our work depending on circumstances. Today, for example, there’s much to do at Drouillard Hospital, in Haiti, where we want to further develop certain services, like the burn and trauma units. And we want to secure access to more refugee camps in Ethiopia, on the Sudan border.

Then we have to be ready for any new emergencies. Actually, it’s more the field teams that have to stay ready, because they’re on the ground. That’s why they try to maintain good information networks, so they can anticipate certain issues, like outbreaks, fighting, or population movements, and why they try to have supplies ready for different types of emergencies.