A Letter from Dr. Africa Stewart
It's been two months since massive twin earthquakes struck Türkiye and Syria, killing more than 50,000 people and leaving millions more homeless. The quakes and their aftershocks leveled buildings, decimated infrastructure, and worsened an already dire humanitarian emergency in northwestern Syria.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams already providing medical care in Syria immediately activated an emergency response. We helped care for scores of injured people and distributed much-needed relief items to those displaced from their homes. In the weeks that followed, we adapted our response to meet the evolving challenges. We treated thousands of earthquake-related injuries, supported damaged health facilities, and ramped up our services for forcibly displaced people.
Across the region, the devastating effects of the quakes are plain to see. But what about the invisible wounds inflicted by the disaster?
The earthquakes caused much more than just physical trauma. Our patients tell us about the fear, grief, anxiety, and depression they are grappling with. MSF staff were not spared the effects of the tragedy—two of our colleagues lost their lives in the earthquakes, and others lost family members and loved ones.
We know that physical and mental health are inextricably linked. That’s why our teams in Syria—and in more than 70 other countries around the world—offer psychosocial support alongside the medical services we provide. Psychologists, social workers, and other qualified staff provided more than 383,000 individual mental health consultations in 2021. Together with surgeons, nurses, logistics experts, and others, our mental health teams play a vital role in delivering medical humanitarian aid.
In the wake of disaster they offer essential psychological first aid, psychosocial support, and other services. And, crucially, they provide mental health care to our own staff, who are also deeply affected by the emergencies we respond to.
In this issue of Alert you’ll meet some of them, from the teams caring for people wounded and displaced by the war in Ukraine to a psychiatrist supporting some 10,000 locally hired MSF staff working in projects across the Middle East and North Africa.
In each issue of Alert, we aim to give you an in-depth look at the lifesaving work your support fuels for the communities who need it most. Some of that work is relatively easy to illustrate—thousands of vaccines administered, or tons of relief items delivered. It can be more difficult to quantify the value and necessity of a mental health care worker who speaks the right language, understands the context, and can help give patients the tools they need to begin the process of healing their minds as well as their bodies.
This is the essence of MSF’s work: We’ll never stop finding ways to meet people where they are, when they need it most. Thank you, as always, for your continued support.
Dr. Africa Stewart
President, MSF-USA Board of Directors
How you can help
Not everyone can treat patients in the field. But everyone can do something.
Some humanitarian crises make the headlines—others don’t. Unrestricted support from our donors allows us to mobilize quickly and efficiently to provide lifesaving medical care to the people who need it most, whether those needs are in the spotlight or not. And your donation is 100 percent tax-deductible.