2017 By the Numbers:
10,648,300 outpatient consultations
749,700 patients admitted
110,000 major surgical interventions
With every year, we know that a new emergency will unfold somewhere in the world, often affecting the most neglected and forgotten people. That’s why, as a medical humanitarian organization, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) plans ahead to respond wherever we’re most needed. We generally estimate that at least a quarter of our aid operations will take shape over the course of the year, whether resulting from man-made or natural disasters.
In this sense, 2017 was no different. In late August, Myanmar’s security forces unleashed a campaign of targeted violence against ethnic Rohingya, a stateless people MSF has been caring for in Myanmar and Bangladesh over three decades. Within just a few months, an estimated 655,500 people would flee into an inhospitable, flood-prone region abutting the Naf river dividing Bangladesh and Myanmar. They would join some 200,000 others from the community who had escaped earlier cycles of violence and persecution in Myanmar.
The response would require all aspects of MSF’s emergency capabilities—vaccination campaigns, mobile clinics, water and sanitation services, and sexual and gender-based violence care. The teams would also be confronted with an age-old disease, diphtheria, that most clinicians had only encountered in their medical textbooks. Nearly 2,000 staff members would be mobilized in a matter of weeks to execute a humanitarian aid operation that provided tens of thousands of people with lifesaving care.
As a global debate swirled around the nature and definition of the extreme violence against the Rohingya, MSF epidemiologists traversed the refugee camps to investigate the main causes of mortality during the August attacks. The aim was not only to understand the patterns of mortality in those days of carnage, but also to make sure MSF programs could address the greatest needs of survivors in the aftermath. In December, MSF issued a report based on these epidemiological surveys revealing that at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed within the first month of the violent campaign—including at least 730 children under the age of five. The report, widely cited by news media and other organizations, provided the most comprehensive evidence of widespread and targeted violence against the Rohingya.
The massive operation to assist the Rohingya represents the fullest expression of MSF’s humanitarian imperative to care for vulnerable people based solely on their needs.
These are the same principles that drive MSF teams to assist people trapped in the civil war in Yemen, building cholera treatment units in urban and rural areas, operating trauma centers in cities under siege, and feeding malnourished children suffering from food insecurity. The urgent needs drive MSF teams to constantly refine and innovate the practice of humanitarian medicine even in the most austere conditions.
All told, more than a third of MSF projects are in places locked in armed conflict, with major humanitarian operations in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan, Central African Republic, Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan. In 2017, several of these conflicts grew even more acute, with parties routinely violating the rules of war intended to protect civilians.
We remain on the front line of the battle against tuberculosis (TB), the world’s leading infectious killer. MSF is the largest non-governmental provider of care for a disease that afflicts more than 10 million people. In 2017, we continued our advocacy campaigns to push for better treatments to fight the scourge of TB.
To ensure our continued effectiveness in a challenging global environment, MSF-USA developed a five-year Strategic Plan (2017-2021) that focuses our efforts to alleviate suffering for people in crisis situations. Priorities in the coming years include strengthening the quality of medical care; influencing global health practices and policies; protecting and expanding space for the medical humanitarian act; developing better-adapted institutional and operational models for MSF in the Americas; promoting diversity and inclusion as integral to efforts to improve our medical humanitarian response; and investing in people to meet the changing needs of MSF.
MSF teams face tremendous obstacles every day, and our patients confront even greater barriers to access medical care and find sanctuary from violence and persecution. It is with your generous support that we are able to provide much needed medical aid in a turbulent world.
On behalf of all our patients and staff, we thank you.
John Lawrence, President, MSF-USA Board of Directors
Jason Cone, Executive Director, MSF-USA