MSF-USA's quarterly newsletter features reports direct from the field and stories that chronicle our medical and advocacy work.

Select issue


Alert Fall 2014 | Vol. 15 No. 3

September 30, 2014

Dear Friends,

My colleagues are often on the scene before the evening news has first reported an emergency, and they stay long after interest moves on. There are always challenges, but we steadfastly do what we can.

Over the past six months, even as the volume of high-profile emergencies has pushed us to our limits in terms of managing security, marshalling the experienced profes­sionals needed, and staying focused on lesser-known catastrophes as well, our teams have been on the job and saving lives in Gaza, South Sudan, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and elsewhere, includ­ing the West African countries now facing an unprecedent­ed Ebola outbreak.

This issue of the Alert focuses primarily on a particularly challenging context: Syria, where a brutal conflict is now in its fourth year. I worked in Syria in 2013 and saw first­hand how what had been a middle income country with a well-developed medical infrastructure had been reduced to a shell of a state where the health system cannot function and millions have little access to care. Those with treatable chronic diseases cannot find medicine. Children are not getting vaccinated. Family after family—with innumerable trained health workers among them—have fled their homes to seek refuge with relatives or in neighboring countries where their presence places an enormous strain on avail­able resources.

To this day, ordinary citizens, including women and children, are living in makeshift shelters without access to clean water and adequate food, making them vulnerable to easily preventable diseases. Syrian doctors and nurses risk their lives to care for the sick and injured in clandestine facilities.

MSF, for our part, has been forced to work at various times in a house, a cave, and a chicken farm, and we’ve faced a host of grave security issues in the process. Marauding criminals and would-be kidnappers add to the danger and make it difficult to provide care and bear witness. When I worked in one of these facilities, colleagues repeatedly asked, “Why don’t people care? Do they know what is hap­pening?”

Despite the challenges, MSF is still working in and around Syria, providing care to hundreds of thousands of people across several countries. Last last year, we sent photogra­phers and videographers to document just one day of this work, to show the reach of this war, from several different vantage points. Their work, the story of one day that could be any day for Syrians living with the consequences of this conflict, can be found at Many of the images and much of the text are featured in this issue of Alert as well. It is all part of our attempt to give you an in­siders’ view, to help you understand the work of our teams and the plight of our colleagues and patients. We hope that by explaining our work and sharing our perspective you will understand why we cannot turn away.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to share a personal loss. In June, MSF lost a dear friend, Richard Rockefeller, who was a founding member of MSF-USA and a passionate advocate for global access to health care. We dedicate this issue to him, and I urge you to read the tribute on page 15, which reflects our admiration.

Richard helped make possible the work we do today. You do as well, and we are forever grateful for your support.


Deane Marchbein, MD
President, MSF-USA Board of Directors

Alert Summer 2014 | Vol. 15 No. 2

August 04, 2014

Like a lot of our staff, when I tell people that I work with Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)—and that I’ve worked in field missions in Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Syria, and elsewhere—they want to know more. What is it like to work “over there”? Where does the organization get its money? Do you take people who don’t have medical backgrounds? When do you open and close programs? How do you manage the security of your teams?

Alert Winter 2014 | Vol. 15 No. 1

March 01, 2014

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.

Alert Fall 2013 | Vol. 14 No. 4

September 30, 2013

In this issue we discuss the importance of vaccination for children under 5 to prevent debilitating and potentially fatal diseases. We also visit South Africa, where one young woman's story illustrates the critical need for access to medicines, and two MSF field workers in war-torn Syria recount their experiences.

Alert Summer 2013 | Vol. 14 No. 3

August 05, 2013

In this issue, we take you inside the neglected crisis in Central African Republic, in addition to stories on Chad, access to medicines, and surgery in war-torn Syria.

Alert Spring 2013 | Vol. 14 No. 2

April 01, 2013

In this issue, we focus on MSF's work in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the ongoing conflict has physically and emotionally traumatized its people. We also consider other pertinent health and medical issues, such as Trans-Pacific Partnership; drug-resistent tuberculosis; and Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

Alert Winter 2013 | Vol. 14 No. 1

January 07, 2013

In this issue, MSF staff answer fundamental questions about our operations—from how we recruit staff, respond to emergencies, and deliver supplies, to how we close projects and share our medical findings with the global health community.

Alert Fall 2012 | Vol. 13 No. 5

October 01, 2012

Welcome to our new Alert. This is the first issue of MSF-USA’s re-designed quarterly newsletter, and we hope you like it. This issue of Alert highlights devastating crises in South Sudan and Syria, conflict-related emergencies that are causing mass casualties and extensive displacement. In both places (and in neighboring countries), our medical teams are doing as much as they can to ease suffering and save lives.