Why I give back: "I am a doctor. I am a refugee."

TUNISIA 2011 © Hope Wall/MSF

Dr. Ahmed Abdalrazag is a physician and medical team leader for Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). But before he started saving lives with MSF, he was a refugee—first fleeing conflict in Iraq, and later fleeing Libya for Tunisia.

“In Iraq in 1998, I remember my mom imploring my dad, ‘I want to leave this place, I don’t want my kids to carry arms, or be trained with those monsters.’” So his family fled from Iraq and made their way to Libya.

Ahmed and his family spent almost a decade in Libya. It is where he received his medical education. But when the political situation in Libya started to deteriorate in 2011, he knew that once again, it was time to flee.

He fled to Tunisia, where the United Nations was accepting refugees and settled in Shousha refugee camp. “While at the camp I saw that MSF needed a physician, so I applied. I was hired and began treating refugees, while I was one myself,” he said.

A record 68.5 million people have been forced from home by violence or persecution worldwide. While many countries are closing their doors to refugees and asylum seekers, MSF is stepping up activities to meet the medical and psychosocial needs of these vulnerable people and advocating on their behalf.

“On MSF teams, people from many different backgrounds and nationalities all pull together to deliver care to refugees,” said Dr. Abdalrazag of his medical work in the field. “With skill and passion, we are providing care to people who have been through so much.”

In Dr. Abdalrazag’s home country of Iraq, where years of conflict and instability have uprooted millions of people and destroyed health facilities, MSF has scaled up its response to meet the needs of vulnerable Iraqi communities, internally displaced people, and Syrian refugees. In 2017, 10 teams deployed across 10 governorates offered a wide range of services, including basic health care, emergency surgeries, maternal health care, mental health support for people traumatized by the recurrent violence, and treatment for chronic diseases.

“I share my story in the hope that it will give people a better understanding of the images they see on the news, to convey some of the reality of what refugees, and those fleeing conflict zones, are going through,” Dr. Abdalrazag said.

In addition to serving as a physician in the field, Dr. Abdalrazag has also worked for MSF as a guide for the Forced From Home exhibition, which is designed to raise public awareness about the challenges facing refugees and internally displaced people.

“My story is just one of more than 65 million — most of these stories will remain untold,” he said. Referring to the thousands of people who die every year while trying to reach safety, he added, “Each person leaves behind loved ones, ambitions, and dreams. I tell my story on behalf of them, because I am one of the ‘lucky’ ones.”