Alert Summer 2023: Lives uprooted

Stories of displacement and finding safety.

A crowd of displaced people at the Bulengo IDP camp near Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo.

DRC 2023 © Michel Lunanga/MSF

Alert is a quarterly magazine published by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF-USA) that features ground reporting from our work around the world. Below is an excerpt from MSF-USA Board President Dr. Africa Stewart's introduction to the Summer 2023 issue (Vol. 24, no. 2), Lives Uprooted.

A Letter from Dr. Africa Stewart

Dear Friends,

It’s been just over a year since the global number of people forcibly displaced from their homes rose above 100 million for the first time in modern history. 

As we mark World Refugee Day 2023, I wish we could say that this staggering figure was a high-water mark. But in the year since even more people have had no choice but to leave their homes, fleeing war, violence, or persecution.

Many are forced to flee with only what they can carry. Some grab important documents, others might hold onto family heirlooms or photos. And there are those who have no option but to leave home with nothing but the clothes on their backs. But no matter their circumstances, there’s one thing that each of these 110 million people carries with them on their long and often dangerous journeys in search of safety: a story.

Wherever people are forced to flee, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is there to provide medical humanitarian aid. In diverse settings around the world, our teams treat injuries, provide emergency supplies, offer psychological care, and so much more. But we also bear witness to the stories carried by every patient we treat—stories of hardship, yes, but also of incredible strength and determination.

I heard one such story during my very first assignment with MSF. In 2011, I received a call to travel to southern Sudan, shortly before the independence of South Sudan following years of grinding conflict. I was sent to an MSF hospital in Aweil, a town that would soon find itself part of South Sudan, the world's newest sovereign country.

To this day, the hospital in Aweil remains the only facility in the region that offers comprehensive maternity care. When I was there, people knew that once South Sudan became independent and the border was established it could become impossible to pass back and forth between the countries. This meant that many mothers had to make grave choices to get the care they needed.

On my first day at the hospital, I spoke to a woman who was well into a healthy pregnancy. Through a translator, she explained that she had lost her two previous children. Those babies were buried on her family land to the north. She had left that land and made the difficult journey to Aweil because it was the only way to receive the care she needed during her pregnancy. When South Sudan gained its independence and the border was closed, she knew she would probably never see her home—or those graves—again. But she made the journey just the same, because she wanted this child to live.

More than a decade later, Sudan is gripped by fresh conflict that has displaced more than a million people. Each of them has been forced to make the kind of impossible choice that woman described to me in the hospital in Aweil. In this issue of Alert, we’re marking another World Refugee Day by sharing some of these stories. You’ll learn about the dire health impacts of asylum restrictions for people seeking safety at the southern US border. We’ll explore the situation in Europe, where inhumane policies are forcing displaced people to take deadly risks as they navigate treacherous migration routes on land and at sea. And you’ll hear powerful stories from several of my colleagues at MSF who also had to flee their homes.

We share these stories in solidarity, and in hopes that they can help to foster understanding. Because from Sudan to the Mediterranean Sea, Central America to the southern US border, we’re all seeking the same things: access to health care, enough food and water, and a better future for our children. What would you do to meet these universal needs for your family?

Thank you, as always, for being a part of our humanitarian movement.


Dr. Africa Stewart
President, MSF-USA Board of Directors

A scene of the city of Khartoum and a billowing fire in the background.

Crisis in Sudan

“We are experiencing a violation of humanitarian principles, and the space for humanitarians to work is shrinking on a scale I've rarely seen before."

Read More
A woman hugs her child in Mexico after migrating from Honduras.

Beyond Title 42

Humane policies at the United States border should replace harsh new asylum restrictions.

Read More

Lives uprooted

Read More
MSF search and rescue teams on an orange rescue boat respond to a migrant ship in distress in the Mediterranean sea

A treacherous journey

How increasingly inhumane policies are making it more dangerous—and deadly—for people to seek safety in Europe.

Read More

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