This is a crucial year for Afghanistan. A presidential election is scheduled for April, and it seems certain that there will be a significant withdrawal of US troops sometime after that. A great many questions are floating around about the political situation, the security situation, human rights, and more.
As a medical humanitarian organization, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is focused on the medical element of the equation. There have been significant improvements in the public health picture in Afghanistan over the past decade, but many of the gains are extremely fragile, and the country still ranks distressingly low in many categories of the United Nations Human Development Index.
We have four projects in the country and in recent months, our teams, in addition to treating patients in a host of different capacities, have been surveying people in different regions to understand their health needs. We wanted to use the resulting data and our experience in the country to urge all involved to keep access to medical care and the health of Afghans high on the agenda going forward. We share the results of this project in the pages that follow, along with some stunning images from MSF project sites.
Also in this issue, we bring you firsthand accounts of MSF’s work in Central African Republic and South Sudan, two countries that were plunged into violence towards the end of 2013. MSF has been working in both places for many years—each was featured in Alert cover stories over the past 18 months—and our staff on the ground has been working around the clock to stem some of the suffering that’s resulted from the wholesale breakdown of order.
We tried to do the same in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan, and here we bring you an account from one our “first responders.” Additionally, Manica Balasegaram, executive director of MSF’s Access Campaign, weighs in on trends and developments in the ongoing fight to secure access to medicines for neglected and underserved populations the world over, and the need for new thinking when it comes to research and development of drugs.
All of these stories are part of our effort to bring reports from our projects back to you, to remain transparent and accountable while conveying the scope and nature of our work. We took what we think is another important step in this direction with the launch of our new website in February—doctorswithoutborders.org—which you may have already noticed. We’d love to know what you think about the new site, about Alert, and about our work, and invite you to send any thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org, so we can continue the conversation.
Executive Director, MSF-USA
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