As we reflect on the tumultuous events of 2018, it is sometimes hard to believe what our teams managed to accomplish in the face of countless obstacles to delivering lifesaving medical humanitarian aid.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) teams provided more than 11,218,700 outpatient consultations and treated over 758,200 inpatients around the world last year. These astonishing figures are all the more impressive in the context of the challenges we face in some of our biggest projects: from a war zone in Yemen, to the site of an Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), to the world’s largest refugee settlement in Bangladesh. We provided medical and mental health care to people uprooted by conflict and vulnerable to disease and despair in refugee camps.
We provided holistic care to survivors of sexual violence, treating the physical damage done as well as the invisible wounds.
Both of us are taking the helm of Doctors Without Borders in the United States at a critical moment, when many people here and abroad are turning inward and turning away from suffering. At times like this, we are all the more grateful for our supporters who stand with us as we provide care to the people who most need it—including refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants.
Every day our teams treat people who are hurt by harsh migration containment and deterrence policies. We reach out to care for people trapped in dangerous places along Mexico’s northern border with the US, in the island prisons of Greece, and in Libya’s horrific detention centers. Increasingly, we see that migrants and asylum seekers are being treated like criminals, and that our work is directly threatened by the criminalization of humanitarian aid.
In December, we were forced to terminate search and rescue operations in the Central Mediterranean due to a sustained campaign, spearheaded by the Italian government and backed by other European states, to shut down aid organizations assisting vulnerable people. (At the time of this writing, in July 2019, we were preparing to resume operations aboard a new ship, Ocean Viking, in an attempt to save lives along the world’s deadliest migration route.)
We are constantly striving to find more creative and innovative solutions to the challenges we face. In South Sudan, where the health care system has been decimated by conflict and political unrest, we pioneered a point-of-care ultrasound project that brings advanced diagnostic capabilities to resource-poor settings and helps empower local staff to better identify and treat the causes of disease. In Iraq, we run a world-class microbiology lab to tackle the growing global threat of antibiotic resistance. As hospitals and clinics were being bombed in Syria, we used telemedicine to remotely support colleagues under siege.
On the policy side, MSF’s Access Campaign is pushing to make medicines, vaccines, and diagnostics more affordable and accessible to the people who need them most. Our earlier campaign for A Fair Shot helped secure a dramatically lower price for the lifesaving pneumonia vaccine, which in turn enabled us last year to use 360,000 doses in emergency vaccination campaigns in Central African Republic, Nigeria, Niger, South Sudan, and Syria. We also celebrated the launch of fexinidazole, a new all-oral cure for sleeping sickness developed by the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative, an organization co-founded by MSF. We also successfully campaigned for tuberculosis (TB) to be recognized as a priority on the global health agenda; MSF is among the leading non-governmental providers of care for people living with TB, the world’s deadliest infectious disease.
We are always pushing ourselves to do better for our patients. This is what drives our sense of purpose as we try to figure out what more we can do and say to help the most neglected and marginalized communities. No matter what the obstacles, we’ll keep going—and we won’t stop.
There certainly are enormous challenges ahead, but we hope this report provides a glimpse of what we can achieve when we work together. As an international movement, we are guided by medical ethics to provide the best care possible to every patient, and to treat every human being with dignity.
Thank you for all that you do to support our work to provide medical aid where it’s needed most—whether it be near or far.
Africa Stewart, MD, President, MSF-USA Board of Directors
Avril Benoît, Executive Director, MSF-USA