Each of us has a specific role, but there is no such thing here as “not my job.” Our commitment to helping people is steeped in purposeful and meaningful inclusion at all levels.
Early in my MSF career, working in Aweil, in what is now South Sudan, I learned that oxytocin, a medication commonly used in the delivery room, had to be kept refrigerated. I learned this when a midwife handed me a cooler containing a checklist, a block of ice, a thermometer, and three vials of the medication. She told me it was “the end of the chain,” and what she meant was that every dose of this drug that we used in our projects had to be kept cold all along the journey to the patient’s bedside. It takes incredible dedication to maintain this “cold chain.” At each link, someone is personally responsible for safeguarding these drugs, from the enormous shipping containers to that handheld cooler.
Over nearly 50 years of humanitarian aid work in countries around the world, MSF has learned a lot about how to work with different communities. This diversity of experiences and perspectives helps inform the pursuit of our social mission. Along the way, we are learning to see ourselves and our role with greater clarity. We are an international organization with wide-ranging expertise, but we must focus on community needs as identified by community members themselves. In this special issue of Alert, you will see how this approach works from the ground up, from Puerto Rico to Brazil to Syria.
As we strive to build an antiracist organization, we are learning to recognize our blind spots and shed our biases. And as president of MSF-USA, I insist that we do this important work in a culture where every person feels safe, every person is treated with respect, and every person has opportunities to grow. We all understand the urgency of the work that needs to be done. And with that understanding comes the responsibility to ensure that work is done right.
The furious pace of events makes it impossible to capture an entire year’s worth of our work in this slim magazine. But we want to give you a glimpse inside some of our projects that are doing impressive work under extraordinary circumstances. We also want to remind you of some of the forgotten crises that have been almost completely overshadowed by COVID-19. Our teams are fighting other infectious diseases, from tuberculosis to HIV/AIDS to measles. This year we helped support the COVID-19 response in projects across the United States—in New York, Florida, Michigan, Texas, Puerto Rico, and worked with Native American communities in the Navajo Nation and Pueblos (see the summer issue of Alert). We also continued to respond to the complex emergency in Yemen and scaled up activities in Burkina Faso, the world’s fastest growing humanitarian crisis.
The world sure does feel heavy at times. But when we pull together and unite behind a common purpose, we can do a whole lot of good. We could not do any of this without you. Thank you for your support as we continue this essential work. Wishing you all a happy and healthy new year.
Dr. Africa Stewart
President, MSF-USA Board of Directors