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Global Education

MSF; perks of globalization

By Connie Gong
Published: November 2010

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international, humanitarian organization that provides medical care and other aid to people struggling for survival.
MSF operates in nearly 60 war torn regions and developing countries, where armed conflict, malnutrition, epidemics, natural disaster, or poverty prevents inhabitants from obtaining health care.
Established in 1971 by a group of French doctors and journalists, MSF was created to respond to the Biafra Secession.
The southeastern providences of Nigeria attempted to withdraw from the country and establish independence as the Republic of Biafra.
The resulting civil war caused widespread genocide, starvation, and disease.
When the war reached a stalemate, Biafra remained blockaded, restricting the access of humanitarian organizations.
In the war’s aftermath, a group of volunteer doctors who had worked to bring aid into the country created MSF, a neutral organization providing impartial assistance.
MSF continues that tradition of impartiality today. Aid is provided regardless of race, class, gender, religion, or political affiliation.
MSF operates independently of any governmental organization or political agenda.
90 percent of MSF’s funding comes from private sources, enabling it to retain independence.
This neutrality gives MSF more access in regions of the world where partisan humanitarian organizations might be turned away. It takes no side in armed conflicts, offering aid on the basis of need alone.
Driven by the idea of medical ethics, MSF shoulders the responsibility of providing medical aid wherever it is needed.
In fact, MSF’s only agenda is to increase access for humanitarian organizations to victims of conflict worldwide.
More than half of MSF’s programs are in response to armed conflict or political instability.
MSF provides medical care to people caught in war zones, including those who may have been injured by knife or gunshot wounds, bombings, or sexual violence.
Medical care is also provided to refugees or displaced people who have fled to camps or temporary shelters. Field teams offer vaccinations, clean water, basic supplies, and shelter.
Mobile clinics are also set up to treat malnutrition and infectious disease.
MSF also responds to natural disasters, which can overwhelm local or national health structures.
MSF teams are often already present in regions where natural disasters have occurred and are able to quickly respond and set up refugee camps.
Over the past decade, MSF has been vital in the treatment for devastating epidemic diseases.
In addition to responding to outbreaks of cholera, meningitis, measles, and malaria, MSF also works in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment of tuberculosis, the number one killer of those with HIV/AIDS carriers.
HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects the poorest inhabitants of Africa, where 92 percent of all AIDS deaths occurred in recently years.
MSF’s efforts have been invaluable throughout many historical times of crisis.
MSF has responded to disasters like the 1988 earthquake in Armenia, the 1996 meningitis epidemic in Nigeria, the South Asian tsunami, Hurricane Mitch, and famine in Ethiopia, North Korea, Angola, and Southern Sudan.
Currently MSF employs over 27,000 individuals from over 19 offices around the world, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States.
Qualified medical professionals such as doctors, nurses, logisticians, and sanitation experts work in the field to provide medical expertise worldwide.
Doctors who work with MSF are entirely volunteers, receiving only minimal compensation for living expenses.
Despite this, MSF employs qualified and expert aid workers, providing high quality care from knowledgeable staff.
Recruits include surgeons, physicians, epidemiologists, pharmacists, HIV/AIDS specialists, midwives, nurses, and obstetricians.
Last year, MSF medical teams provided over 9 million outpatient consultations, hospitalized half a million, delivered 99,000 babies, treated 1.8 million people for malaria, treated 150,000 malnourished children, vaccinated 1.8 million people, and conducted 64,000 surgeries.
Though entirely dependent on the goodwill of medical professionals and the generosity of private donations, it is astounding how much MSF is able to accomplish.
In 1999, MSF received the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of its ability to provide medical care during crises, as well as raising awareness of humanitarian disasters.
It continues these humanitarian efforts today.

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