December 22, 2009

In July I visited Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)’s medical programs for people uprooted by fighting in Pakistan. Our teams are hard at work there every day, bringing emergency medical care to people caught in this devastating crisis.

The temperature then was about 120 degrees and in the camps people were baking hot under temporary shelters. As I look at the photographs on pages 4 and 5 of this issue of Alert, showing some of the children at Palosa camp in the Charsadda district of the North West Frontier Province, I cannot help but think of the struggles that are in store for them as winter sets in and temperatures drop.

In Pakistan as in other countries embroiled in war—the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, and Sri Lanka to name a few—the scale of human suffering, of human resilience, of courage, hope, and despair is so enormous that words at times cannot do justice to what our medical teams witness every day. Sometimes images can provoke an unspoken understanding—many of us have never been to Somalia or any other war zone but we can understand, for example, the look of fear in a mother’s eyes as she holds her baby in a place where their security is constantly threatened.

In addition to providing health care, MSF bears witness, with words and images, in order to bring our experiences and those of our patients to a wider audience— to advocate for change and to state simply: This is happening to people we know, to children, women, and men who are caught in crises beyond their control and who need urgent humanitarian assistance to survive.

Every year at this time, we devote an issue of Alert to images from the crises we have responded to over the course of the year. We hope the images we have chosen this year convey stories that words often cannot: the shock and pain on a young asylum-seeker’s cut and bruised face; the indignation of an elderly woman who fled her war-torn country only to find more suffering in another one; and the discordant beauty of a child in the miserable setting of a displaced persons’ camp.

These photographs serve as a reminder to all of us not only of the human capacity for brutality and violence, but also of our capacity to survive extraordinary crises and to reach out to others when crisis strikes. They remind us of why we do what we do.

Thank you for reaching out to MSF. Through us, your support reaches the millions of people in more than 60 countries around the world we treat every year.


Sophie Delaunay
Executive Director, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)

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