Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, healthcare exclusion and natural or man-made disasters.
In 2015 over 30,000, mostly local, doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, logistical experts, water and sanitation engineers and administrators provided medical aid in over 70 countries. Private donors provide about 90% of the organization’s funding, while corporate donations provide the rest.
Médecins Sans Frontières was created in 1971, after Biafra’s secession, by a small group of French doctors and journalists who believed that all people have the right to medical care regardless of race, religion, creed or political affiliation, and that the needs of these people outweigh respect for national borders. One of the co-founders of the organisation was Bernard Kouchner, later a high-ranking French politician.
In emergency situations where there is a lack of nutritious food, but not to the level of a true famine, protein-energy malnutrition is most common among young children. Marasmus, a form of calorie deficiency, is the most common form of childhood malnutrition and is characterised by severe wasting and often fatal weakening of the immune system. Kwashiorkor, a form of calorie and protein deficiency, is a more serious type of malnutrition in young children, and can negatively affect physical and mental development. Both types of malnutrition can make opportunistic infections fatal. In these situations, MSF sets up Therapeutic Feeding Centres for feeding and monitoring the children and other malnourished individuals.
Sanitation is an essential part of field missions, and it may include education of local medical staff in proper sterilisation techniques, sewage treatment projects, proper waste disposal, and education of the population in personal hygiene.
The Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines was initiated by MSF in 1999, as they often lacked effective drugs during field missions, to increase access to essential medicines in developing countries. Most diseases common in developing countries are no longer common in developed countries so pharmaceutical companies find that producing these drugs is unprofitable and may raise the price per treatment, decrease development of the drug (and new treatments) or even stop production of the drug.
Would they agree with the statement of the original Friends Ambulance Unit trainees issued in the 1939 training camp?
“We purpose to train ourselves as an efficient Unit to undertake ambulance and relief work in areas under both civilian and military control, and so, by working as a pacifist and civilian body where the need is greatest, to demonstrate the efficacy of co-operating to build up a new world rather than fighting to destroy the old”.
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