‘The world is our emergency room’

| July 5, 2013 | 0 Comments
Jimale Mohamed, an MSF clinical officer, examines a young patient in the outpatient department of MSF's field hospital in Doro refugee camp in South Sudan.

Jimale Mohamed, an MSF clinical officer, examines a young patient in the outpatient department of MSF’s field hospital in Doro refugee camp in South Sudan.

“My responsibility is to use those opportunities I’ve been given and try and put some good back into the world,” says physician and humanitarian AnneMarie Pegg.
Pegg, who is from Yellowknife, is currently part of a crisis team working in Central African Republic and is one of hundreds of Canadians who work overseas every year with international medical organization Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
In close to 70 countries around the world, MSF staff deliver emergency aid to people affected by war, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from health care. They help people survive catastrophic situations, when communities and health structures may be overwhelmed. MSF is a neutral, independent organization, so medical assistance is based on need, irrespective of race, religion, gender or political affiliation.
“My work in the field brings perspective to my work in Canada, and vice versa,” says Ms Pegg, “and makes me a better physician in both places.”
Roughly nine of 10 MSF field staff are hired from the places where MSF is providing assistance. Aid workers, both local and international, include doctors, nurses, midwives, logistical experts, water and sanitation specialists, administrators and many other experienced professionals.
Doctors and nurses co-ordinate, supervise, train, manage resources and personnel, and set policy, as well as provide some hands-on medical care. Non-medical, skilled support staff ensure day-to-day operations run as smoothly as possible — attending to supplies, transportation, construction, IT, water and sanitation, human resources, finance and general administration.
MSF has a commitment to address the suffering people endure and the obstacles encountered in providing assistance. A core part of the organization’s mandate is to speak out, raise awareness and put pressure on decision-makers to bring about change. MSF’s witnessing and advocacy work can include calling attention to crises through the media, presenting reports to governments or the UN, and pressing pharmaceutical companies to make essential medicines affordable for patients in developing countries.
Stephen Cornish is the executive director of MSF in Canada. Originally from Ottawa, he has two decades of humanitarian experience, including as head of mission for various MSF programs in Africa, South America and Russia. This spring, he visited MSF projects delivering aid to Syrians caught in the ongoing civil war. Cornish has spoken publicly and written about the catastrophe people are facing inside Syria as well as those living as refugees in neighbouring countries.
“Truly, we are failing the Syrian people,” he said in a Globe and Mail op-ed piece in May. “The crisis requires political will and leadership on the part of national governments to persuade Damascus, opposition groups and Syria’s neighbours to increase humanitarian access and reduce barriers to aid. It also requires more resources to meet the escalating needs.”
MSF is doubling its efforts in Syria and surrounding countries and is urging Canada to do its part to ensure humanitarian aid can reach those affected by the conflict. More than 80 percent of the money MSF raises in Canada comes from individual donors. This support gives MSF the freedom to act quickly and the flexibility to make effective choices about where and how work is carried out.
MSF was founded in Paris, France, in 1971. Today, it is a worldwide movement of 23 associations. An international office, which binds these associations, is based in Geneva. MSF in Canada formally joined the international movement in 1991.
Actions and decisions in the organization are guided by medical ethics and the principles of neutrality and impartiality. Much outreach is done in communities where MSF works, to explain that neutrality means the people who are offering assistance do not take sides, but seek to bring aid to those who need it most urgently. In situations of conflict, MSF does not accept funds from governments or other parties directly involved.
Says Cornish: “I feel fortunate to be in this line of work, to provide a voice to those who may be suffering in silence.”

Linda Nagy is a communications officer for MSF. For more information on MSF, email msfcan@msf.ca or call 1-800-982-7903.

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Linda Nagy is a communications officer for MSF. For more information on MSF, email msfcan@msf.ca or call 1-800-982- 7903.

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