A Letter from Dr. Africa Stewart
At Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), bearing witness to the emergencies our patients and their communities experience is an essential part of our medical humanitarian work. When disaster strikes, conflict flares, or people are denied access to lifesaving care, we know that raising our voices to speak out and tell the world about what we’re witnessing can be a powerful tool to galvanize support and effect change.
We speak out in solidarity with the people we help, and, often, in outrage at the deep inequities that fuel humanitarian emergencies. In our reporting, we strive to be as honest and accurate as possible about the frequently stark realities we witness.
2023 was a year marked by such stark realities. Ongoing conflicts in Haiti and Ukraine intensified, and in Sudan a new war displaced millions of people and pushed the country’s health system to the brink of collapse. In Afghanistan, Syria, and Türkiye, massive earthquakes resulted in thousands of deaths and even more injuries. And in South Sudan and Libya, catastrophic flooding fueled in part by the effects of climate change caused widespread destruction and displacement.
And in Gaza and Israel, we were horrified by the widespread suffering and death stemming from the eruption of full-scale war in October. More than two million people are now trapped in Gaza, where heavy Israeli bombardment and indiscriminate attacks have turned a chronic humanitarian crisis into a catastrophe. Dwindling supplies of fuel, safe food, clean water, and urgently needed health services leave no respite for people caught up in the violence. In this war, as in every conflict we respond to, MSF is calling on all parties to the conflict to protect civilians and ensure that hospitals remain safe spaces for patients and health workers alike. The situation on the ground is changing by the minute. This was written in early November—by the time it reaches you, circumstances could be very different.
In each issue of Alert—and especially in our annual Year in Photos issues—we aim to take you inside our work and give you a glimpse at what our staff and patients are seeing in more than 70 countries around the world. These photographs can be bracing; even confronting. But our goal as humanitarians is not just to share stories and images of suffering and hardship—we also want to show the great and enduring hope that is at the core of this challenging work.
As we close out the year, it’s my wish that you’ll recognize that hope shining through the stories and images in these pages. From Sudan, where amid violence and massive displacement our teams continue to treat wounds, provide vaccines, and assist deliveries. From Afghanistan, where the MSF team already working at a hospital in Herat was able to respond within hours when devastating earthquakes struck. From the Mediterranean Sea, where teams on our search and rescue ship help people in danger as they attempt the treacherous and often deadly journey to Europe. And in Gaza, where MSF health workers continue to provide care to those who need it most, even under the most difficult circumstances imaginable. The needs are massive, and we will never be able to do it all. But together, with your support and your unwavering commitment to our shared humanity, we will continue to do all that we can.
Wishing you and your family a happy, healthy new year,
Dr. Africa Stewart
President, MSF-USA Board of Directors