Early last year, just hours after a huge earthquake hit Haiti, Mary Jo Frawley was on her way to the airport. A nurse, Mary Jo is a veteran of MSF missions in Somalia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Pakistan, and elsewhere. After hearing the news out of Haiti, she called our offices to say she was ready to go. She thought she’d be in country for four weeks, but over time she grew more and more invested in the community in which she was working and wound up staying for 14 months.
In this year end issue of Alert, we share Mary Jo’s remembrances about her time in Haiti, because her experience and her dedication are characteristic of so many of the people who help us deliver lifesaving medical care in more than 60 countries around the world. Through November of this year, the US office had sent aid workers off on 379 assignments in 2011. Each of them has our gratitude and admiration.
Additionally, our Pictures of the Year highlight contexts that figured prominently in MSF’s work and advocacy in 2011, proving, once again, that any “snapshot” of our efforts requires many frames due to the variety of locations and situations in which they take place.
Before any project begins, however, we have to ask questions about how we can and will apply humanitarian principles on the ground in chaotic and often violent realities—particularly when negotiating with governments or factions with conflicting interests. Our goal is to reach a compromise that allows us to deliver medical care, but how far do we go? How do we maintain independence when seeking access from belligerents or authoritarian regimes that want to limit our movements or keep us silent about what we see? And to what extent should we be willing to sacrifice these principles in order to treat people in need?
MSF veterans examine how these issues have played out in places such as Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, Gaza, Afghanistan, and elsewhere in Humanitarian Negotiations Revealed, a book that will be released in the US in January and that speaks to our commitment to transparency and openness about our operations.
On behalf of MSF-USA, I’d like to thank all our field workers for their commitment and professionalism in 2011—Mary Jo is back in the field, working on a measles vaccination project in Democratic Republic of Congo—and I would like to thank all of you for your generosity and support. We look forward to continuing along this road with you in 2012.