Doctors Without Borders Responds to Hurricane Sandy

MSF is helping to fill gaps in medical aid for some of the most vulnerable groups affected by Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey—the elderly, homeless, or physically or mentally impaired.

USA 2012 © Michael Goldfarb/MSF

An MSF physician conducts a medical consultation with a resident at a makeshift clinic opened in Rockaway, Queens.

To our friends and supporters,

I had just finished a radio interview in San Francisco where I was asked whether Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) was intervening to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy. While we have not worked in the United States in the past, I told the interviewer that we had learned our lesson from Hurricane Katrina – don't assume that the needs will be covered, keep a close eye on evolving events, and be ready to react.

It was at that moment that I received the phone call from my colleagues in New York. They had serious concerns that the medical needs of the people impacted and displaced by Sandy were not being met. I gave them the go-ahead to mobilize our network of staff, local Doctors Without Borders aid workers, board members, donors, and personal and official contacts to get more information about the situation on the ground in New York and New Jersey.

I am still surprised at how quickly things happened after that.

Urgent medical needs were becoming apparent as we quickly mapped and assessed some of the hardest-hit areas. I was back in New York the next day to lead one of six "explo-action teams," one in Manhattan, one in Staten Island, one in Brooklyn, two in Queens, and one in Hoboken, New Jersey.

As we worked to treat patients on the spot in these locations, we found gaps in medical and mental health care. Creating continuity in patient care was critical – there was little consistent follow-through on how people could get mental health care, prescriptions, or follow-up care. Pharmacies were shuttered because of storm damage, and gas for transportation was in short supply, making it difficult for people to get treatment and drugs, largely for pre-existing medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and asthma.

In the Rockaways area of Queens where I led the intervention throughout the weekend, we treated approximately 100 people, many of them elderly or with disabilities who were caught on the highest floors of buildings with no electricity or heat. People were suffering from immense amounts of stress, and mental health care was critical.

Over the past twenty years, a large proportion of Doctors Without Borders' financial support has come from our donors in New York and New Jersey who are now struggling with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Our thoughts and efforts are with you at this time.

I hope you take a moment to read the most recent operational update on our work delivering medical care to people in these communities. We will continue our response throughout the week and be vigilant about the needs as yet another storm approaches.

Again and again we have had the opportunity to say thank you to our donors for supporting our work abroad. This time we thank you for supporting our work right here at home. We hope that you will continue to support our work wherever the needs arise.

All the best to you and your families,


Sophie Delaunay
Executive Director

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