New MSF International President Elected

White flag with red logo of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) against sunny blue sky

© Valérie Batselaere/MSF

Geneva, June 29, 2010 – The international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today announced the election of its new international president, Dr. Unni Karunakara.

Dr. Karunakara was formally installed during MSF’s International Council meeting in in Amsterdam over the weekend. He takes over from Dr. Christophe Fournier, and will head MSF’s worldwide movement, which includes 19 national associations and branch offices in other countries, for the next three years.
“I am honoured to be elected for such an important role in the MSF movement and to contribute to strategic choices that face our organization,” said Dr. Karunakara. “We are confronted with many challenges in the provision of crucial medical assistance to people who are trapped by conflict or suffer the consequences of disasters, disease outbreaks, or neglect. MSF will remain relevant for the survival of large numbers of people, if we manage to constantly adapt our organisation to new realities. The members of MSF’s associative platforms, including the International Council, are important for setting out the organisation’s general directions. I look forward to making my contribution.”

Dr. Unni Krishnan Karunakara first became involved with MSF in 1995 when he was tasked with setting up a tuberculosis control program in Jijiga, Ethiopia. He went on to become medical coordinator of MSF activities in Azerbaijan, providing basic health care services to forced migrants from Nagorno-Karabakh, in Brazil, running a health care program for the indigenous population in Amazonas Province, and in the Republic of Congo, operating a sleeping sickness program. In 2002, Dr. Karunakara joined the public health department of MSF in the organization’s Amsterdam office, advising country programs in the Middle East, southern Africa, and south and central America.  Three years later, he became medical director of MSF’s Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines.  In 2007, he was part of the medical emergency response team that treated victims of cyclone Sidr in Mathbaria, Bangladesh.

Dr. Karunakara received his medical degree from Kasturba Medical College in India and degrees in public health from Yale and Johns Hopkins Universities in the United States. He has held various academic and research fellowships at universities in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Germany, and the United Kingdom, focusing on the demography of forced migration and the delivery of health care to neglected populations affected by conflict, disasters, and epidemics.  Since 2008, Dr. Karunakara had been working at Columbia University in New York as Deputy Director of Health for the Millennium Villages Project at the Earth Institute, where he was also Assistant Clinical Professor at the Mailman School of Public Health.

As President, Dr. Karunakara will be based at MSF’s international office in Geneva, Switzerland, where he will work alongside the organization’s secretary general, Kris Torgeson.