In Sudan, an American
human rights specialist flies into remote regions in the Nuba
Full Name: Leslie
Profession: Human rights
Episode: "Into The Crisis
In this episode, Dr. Kate Doan treats several soldiers who have
been injured while fighting for or against the Sudanese government.
When does MSF find it acceptable to treat soldiers?
All of MSF’s projects are focused on medical
aid for civilians. When MSF volunteers are approached by a soldier
in need of medical attention, they require that uniforms and firearms
be checked at the clinic’s front door. They will then treat
a soldier just as they would any other patient, regardless of his
status as a combatant or on which side they are fighting. This principle
is enshrined in the Geneva Conventions, and is a responsibility
of warring parties, just as much as it is an ethic to be pursued
by non-governmental organizations such as MSF.
Nevertheless, when MSF works in conflict areas, safeguards
are put in place to protect MSF aid workers and to ensure their
independence. In almost every case, when MSF is seeking to work
in a conflict zone, MSF requires representatives of the armed parties
to sign agreements recognizing the safety and the autonomy of MSF’s
volunteers in triaging and treating patients on their own terms.
In this episode, Leslie Lefkow, a human rights
specialist, is collecting interviews from civilians in south Sudan
for a report. What is the connection between MSF’s direct
medical care and advocacy?
The answer to this question goes back to MSF’s
inception, when the organization was founded by a group of French
Red Cross doctors who became frustrated with restrictions on public
statements. MSF’s founders returned from a medical aid mission
to Biafra feeling that in some cases, public statements would have
been more valuable than medical aid in helping the populations that
they had served. They saw advocacy as a potential extension of medical
This was one of the principles on which MSF was founded –
that advocacy complements medical aid, enabling humanitarian workers
to address the causes, as well as the effects of violence, disease,
and suffering among their patients.
The case of western Upper Nile is a perfect example.
After many years of fighting to provide medical aid in the region,
MSF decided that it had reached the limitations of what medical
aid could offer without a significant change in the way the civil
war was being fought. By drawing public attention to the plight
of the civilian population, MSF hoped to provoke a shift in the
conditions that were leading to human rights abuses, disease, and
lack of access to health care and humanitarian aid.
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Life in the Field.
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