January 31, 2013

DRC 2012 © Aurelie Lachant/MSF

Team members prep medicines for delivery-by-motorbike in DRC’s Orientale Province.

Notes from the Advocacy team at MSF-USA.

MSF’s operational advocacy occurs both in and out the field. On the ground, it might mean a project coordinator meeting with the military commander of an area to explain what MSF is, what we do, and why we do it. MSF works under the premise that there is no guaranteed “humanitarian space” for our programs, so we must constantly advocate for the various sides in a conflict or various officials and members of government to respect the neutrality of our medical structures and our medical work. Humanitarian space, after all, involves not only a physical space in which to deploy humanitarian assistance, but also the room to make independent assessments of the needs and to access patients who need assistance.

Away from the field, our advocacy takes place in capital cities, halls of government, and with other organizations or international institutions. MSF has advocacy positions in several headquarter offices around the world staff ed by people who relay MSF’s field needs, priorities, and experiences to international and regional actors. In addition, we advocate for neglected patients, for more effective delivery of humanitarian aid, and for specific needs we see in the field. For example, in South Sudan last year, we called for a swifter, more focused response to growing refugee situations in the north and east. And in DRC, we highlighted how persistent insecurity precluded the delivery of aid to many desperately in need of it. We also have advocated on broader topics, such as the shortcomings of the United Nations cluster system.” Likewise, we advocate for greater access to specific and effective tools and drugs for patients. This has happened with treatments for malaria, for HIV, for TB, and other diseases. In many cases, MSF collected evidence to demonstrate the efficacy of a new treatment regimen. In many others, MSF and its Access Campaign push pharmaceutical companies to make their products available at affordable prices for people in developing and often deeply impoverished countries.

We don’t always “win,” but whatever the context, advocacy is a tool MSF uses in an effort to improve the health care outcomes and options in a given place. It always starts with, and comes back to, the field.

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