tagged w/ Doctors Without Borders
MSF doctor Thanya inspects a patient's temperature.
MSF doctor Andrea watches as the hunter makes the critical journey by plane.
The son of a hunter savagely mauled by a wild pig keeps vigil by his bedside.
Federico Carbone, also Belgian, is the MSF Field Coordinator in Matili. He has worked in Congo's most violent regions.Federico Carbone, also Belgian, is the MSF Field Coordinator in Matili. He has worked... more
The MSF mobile clinic visits a village to conduct blood tests for the sleeping sickness. With more than 5000 people to test, the screening process has to be run like a well-oiled machine...
Doctors Without Borders - Medicine on the Edge
Curious to see what kinds of people volunteer to work in some of the poorest and most dangerous places in the world, Current TV spent four months in the Democratic Republic of Congo following the lives and work of medical aid workers from Doctors Without Borders. Filmed in stunning HD, the result is a beautiful and very candid two-part series revealing the immense highs and very real lows of the doctors and nurses as they treat victims of rebel attacks and endemic illness with the bare minimum of resources and without any of the creature comforts of home.
Starts Monday 23rd May, 10pm
Only on Current TV
Virgin Media 155The MSF mobile clinic visits a village to conduct blood tests for the sleeping... more
The effects of the Fukushima plant are just one thing the people of the earthquake/tsunami region will have to face. The psychological effects are just as devastating, and actually not getting the attention they should be getting.
"Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) plans to support a team of six psychologists who will treat survivors of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit northeast Japan March 11.
For the past 12 days, a 12-person MSF team has been treating patients with chronic diseases in one of the areas worst affected by the disasters. A psychologist was also sent in earlier this week to evaluate mental health needs.
“Many people now are in a phase of acute stress disorder, which is a totally natural response to this level of trauma,” said Ritsuko Nishimae, a clinical psychologist working with the MSF team in Minami Sanriku. “If they are not able to get proper support psychologically, there is an increased possibility that they could develop post-traumatic stress disorder (P.T.S.D),” said the psychologist.
Ritsuko has been working in the field for the last two days, getting an accurate picture of needs, as well as working with disaster survivors. “I talk with them and listen to their experiences and to what they need now," Ritsuko said. "Gradually, they open their feelings and express their thoughts and show emotion. This process is very effective to release stress."
The psychologists with whom MSF plans to work come from the Japanese Society of Certified Clinical Psychologists. MSF will assist them as they identify populations in need of assistance and will provide logistical support.
MSF medical teams continue to work in evacuation centers in Minami Sanriku, in northern Miyagi prefecture, and has also started supporting a Japanese doctor who was working in the town of Taro, in Iwate prefecture. The main activity continues to be consultations with elderly patients suffering from chronic diseases such as hypertension or diabetes."The effects of the Fukushima plant are just one thing the people of the... more
As access improves in the region of northeastern Japan that was devastated by last Friday's 9.0-magnitude earthquake and the tsunamis it caused, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is finding serious needs in areas that had previously been impossible to reach by road.
MSF currently has a team of 10 people divided into three teams conducting mobile clinics and assessments in Miyagi prefecture.
The tsunamis decimated coastal areas, which are now becoming accessible by road due to the efforts of Japanese authorities. "In one area around Minamisanriku, in northern Miyagi, we were told by officials there were 9,200 people in 20 evacuation centers who needed water, non-food items and medical attention,” said Mikiko Dotsu, the coordinator of the MSF team.
Although injured people had been evacuated by helicopter from these areas, many elderly people were still there, some of whom were dehydrated, the coordinator said. “The chronic diseases of some of these elderly people are a cause for concern,” Mikiko said. MSF is now identifying specific needs—including oxygen, non-food items, medical items and water—and will work with Japanese authorities to assist these populations.
More MSF personnel staff are standing by in Japan and other countries to head to Miyagi prefecture to increase our assistance.
MSF continues to monitor the situation around Fukushima nuclear power plants. If there is a serious nuclear incident, it is only the Japanese government that will be in a position to react.
•Field News: March 14, 2011
Japan: A Note On Funding and DonationsAs access improves in the region of northeastern Japan that was devastated by last... more
Just Songs is a Toronto-based music project that allows recording artists the opportunity to donate to the charity of their choice by selling selected songs through the just songs website.
http://www.zenhillrecords.com/archives/679Just Songs is a Toronto-based music project that allows recording artists the... more
Once again we see Doctors Without Borders at the heart of the tragedy bringing aid and life to those effected. Governments could learn much from these extraordinary people!Once again we see Doctors Without Borders at the heart of the tragedy bringing aid and... more
Hurricane Tomas lashes already devastated Haiti
By the CNN Wire Staff
November 5, 2010 5:35 p.m. EDT
* NEW: Rain stops falling in the capital
* Reports tell of destroyed houses, downed trees and flooded rivers
* Aid workers are already struggling to keep up with a cholera outbreak
* Tomas could dump 15 inches of rain over Haiti and cause flash flooding and mud slides
Port-Au-Prince, Haiti (CNN) -- Already devastated this year by a killer earthquake and a deadly cholera outbreak, Haiti felt the brute force Friday of Hurricane Tomas, which could dump up to 15 inches of rain and trigger flash floods and mud slides.
The hurricane's punishing rain and wind pounded Haiti as the storm churned offshore.
As of 5 p.m. ET, the storm's center was about 90 miles (145 kilometers) east of Guantanamo, Cuba, and about 70 miles (110 kilometers) southwest of Great Inagua island in the Bahamas, according to the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida. Earlier Friday, Tomas had passed within about 140 miles (230 kilometers) of Port-au-Prince.
In the westernmost tip of Haiti, which juts into the Caribbean Sea and is closest to the hurricane, there were reports from the town of Jeremie of destroyed houses, downed trees and flooded rivers, said Marie-Eve Bertrand, communications manager for CARE in the nation.
Also, she said, CARE workers near the coastal city of Leogane reported the area has been inundated with nearly 5 feet of water. Flooding from a nearby river had entered some tent encampments and temporary shelters, Bertrand said.
Tomas was also felt in Port-au-Prince, the nation's capital, but the worst of the storm appeared to have passed there after rain pounded the city all night. By Friday afternoon, the rain had stopped falling.
"The skies have gotten a little cloudier, but people are out and about," said Andrea Koppel, director of international communications with the American Red Cross, who spoke to CNN from Port-au-Prince. "The music is blaring from some of the communities here."
Relief worker Roseann Dennery of Samaritan's Purse was near Cabaret, about 20 miles north of Port-au-Prince, on Friday morning, touring camps that hold some of the 1 million people left homeless by January's 7.0-magnitude earthquake, which killed some 250,000 people.
"It's almost eerie," she said. "It's rainy, it's dark and there's really not a lot of movement."
The few people moving from tent to tent were wrapped in sheets and cloth to provide some protection against the constant rain, she said. The ground was soaked and some low-lying areas had minor flooding.
Some people rode out the storm in open-air community centers with supposedly sturdy roofs, she said. But many just huddled in their tents, waiting for the wind and rain to pass. Most didn't have anywhere else to go.
"A lot of them do not have families or relatives," said Dennery.
She said her agency, an international Christian relief organization, has evacuated 30 staff members from Leogane out of fear of mud slides there.
Michael Dockrey, the director in Haiti for the International Medical Corps, also expressed his deep concern Friday.
"Particularly," he told CNN, "with mud slides that can cut off whole communities. We have pre-positioned medical supplies, tents, tarps and staff in areas that we know will be isolated."
Aid workers already were struggling to keep up with the cholera outbreak, which has killed nearly 450 people and hospitalized about 7,000. The bacterial disease causes diarrhea and vomiting that can lead to deadly dehydration within hours.
"It's obviously stretched us all real thin," Dockrey said. "We could certainly use more help ... as can all the other responders."
The hurricane will only make matters worse.
"Even if Tomas only brushes Haiti, it may exacerbate the epidemic, facilitating the spread of the disease into and throughout metropolitan Port-au-Prince, where a third of the population remains homeless and in camps," the International Organization for Migration said.
Some Haitians scurried Friday morning through the rain-pelted streets of Port-au-Prince, looking for somewhere to seek shelter, reported CNN en Espanol's Diulka Perez. They were told to go to churches or the homes of friends and family, but there are significantly fewer churches or homes still standing after January's massive earthquake.
There was also no public transportation available to take people anywhere, Perez reported.
The problem is compounded, she said, because there's no central source of information. Haitians are having to rely on word of mouth to obtain information.
Nor are Haitians eager to leave their tent shelters, because the government cannot guarantee they will have someplace to return to after the storm passes.
http://t2.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRYI374io5SbNB1AzBdSkPrB2aAipfwE7XM1sh4wqMqiQ--wWY&t=1&usg=__YkjBCL-JrfetZLzbC3uiDunMGxQ=Hurricane Tomas lashes already devastated Haiti
By the CNN Wire Staff
November 5,... more
A cholera outbreak has hit the region along the Artibonite River, between the cities of Saint-Marc and Mirebalais.
Following the outbreak of acute diarrhea in the Artibonite region of Haiti, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) medical teams—including doctors, nurses, and logisticians—immediately traveled to the affected areas along the Artibonite River, between the cities of Saint-Marc and Mirebalais.
According to Haitian health authorities, at least 138 people have died and 1,500 cases of cholera have been confirmed.
In collaboration with national health authorities, MSF is providing human resources and technical and material support to health structures in Saint-Marc. Teams are involved in treating patients and implementing necessary measures to prevent the outbreak from spreading. MSF is sending additional medical materials and experienced staff to the affected areas.
MSF is not able to confirm either the cause or the exact bacterial type of the outbreak. The Artibonite region was not affected by the January 12, 2010, earthquake.
MSF Activities in Haiti
In Haiti, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has more than 3,000 Haitian and international medical and non-medical staff providing assistance to the population. They run seven private, free of charge, secondary-level care hospitals and support two Ministry of Health structures in Port-au-Prince, accounting for nearly 1,000 hospital beds in the capital city. These facilities provide emergency, trauma, obstetrical, pediatric, maternal, and orthopedic care services. Mental health care and treatment and counseling for victims of sexual violence are also provided by MSF.
MSF is also in the process of opening a new emergency obstetrical hospital with 100 beds in the Delmas area of Port-au-Prince. Outside the capital, MSF supports Ministry of Health hospitals in the cities of Leogane and Jacmel with nearly 200 beds of patient capacity. MSF opened a private 120-bed container hospital in Leogane in October.
From January 12 to September 30, MSF has treated more than 339,000 people, performed more than 15,700 surgeries; and delivered over 9,900 babies. MSF also provides primary medical care and relief supplies to displaced persons living in various camps in Port-au-Prince through mobile and fixed clinics, and is carrying out water-and-sanitation services to displaced persons in the Cite de Soleil slum.A cholera outbreak has hit the region along the Artibonite River, between the cities... more
Aid groups say lead poisoning has killed 400 children in Nigeria
By Salma Abdelaziz, CNN
October 5, 2010 9:45 p.m. EDT
Children are dying of lead poisoning in Nigeria according to the aid group Doctors Without Borders.
* Doctors Without Borders says the death toll may be even higher
* The contamination comes from villagers' attempts to extract gold from ore
* The clean-up involves removing contaminated soil and replacing it with clean soil
(CNN) -- As many as 400 children have died of lead poisoning-related illnesses in Nigeria since March, two international aid groups say, and as many as 30,000 people could be affected by lead contamination.
The deaths occurred predominantly in children under the age of 5 in the state of Zamfara, according to Lauren Cooney, the emergency manager for Medecins Sans Frontieres. The group is also known by its English name, Doctors without Borders.
Cooney told CNN Tuesday that the death toll may be even higher, but said the numbers shouldn't mask the crisis.
"Rather than focus on specific death toll numbers, because those often are very difficult to obtain, the international community should focus on the harsh reality in Nigeria: It is very clear that a serious and significant number of children have died due to lead poisoning," she said.
A study conducted by the World Health Organization and the Health Ministry of Zamfara State "identified 180 villages where children may have been poisoned by lead, which means that up to 30,000 people could be affected," said a statement Friday from the United Nations' Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
The report on child deaths comes a few months after the Nigerian government announced in early June the deaths of more than 160 Nigerians, including scores of children, of lead poisoning due to illegal gold mining.
"The lead poisoning is a consequence of villagers practicing small-scale gold extraction from lead-containing ore. The processing of the ore involves crushing and drying, often inside the homes of villagers, resulting in the contamination of soil," Doctors without Borders explained in a statement.
Since June, Nigerian health officials have cooperated with the World Health Organization to clean up the affected areas. Since the process began, two out the seven villages known to be affected have been decontaminated, Cooney said.
"We already started in June treating patients. We are focusing on treatment of children under 5 but the most important thing is the remediation, or clean-up, so the exposure can stop," she added.
Remediation is a lengthy process that requires removing all the contaminated soil and replacing it with clean soil. The process was stopped in the month of August due to the beginning of the rainy season but it started up again a few weeks ago.
Efforts to clean up contaminated areas are being hampered by the reluctance of villagers to report potential lead exposure, for fear the Nigerian government will prohibit the informal gold mining, OCHA said.
Doctors without Borders says it's still treating hundreds of lead-poisoning cases in Zamfara, but the group warned that the treatment is only effective if patients do not return to contaminated sites.Aid groups say lead poisoning has killed 400 children in Nigeria
By Salma Abdelaziz,... more
A month after floodwaters began spreading across Pakistan, uprooting thousands of families and many entire communities in the process, Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) continues to scale up activities in the affected areas while preparing to expand its work to serve new locations and places where thousands of people are cut off from assistance they vitally need.
Improving Access to Clean Water and Sanitation
To curb the possible outbreak of waterborne diseases, MSF is ramping up the distribution of clean water in larger towns and remote villages located throughout the Charsadda, Swat, Nowshera, Lower Dir, and Dargai districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. In the coming days, MSF will also start water and sanitation activities in Sindh and Baluchistan provinces as well.
Teams are also planning to assess the water supply systems in Dera Murad Jamali and Sukkur, towns in Baluchistan and Sindh provinces, respectively, in order to ensure that the public water supply plant sufficiently chlorinates its water before it reaches the population at large.
Across Pakistan, MSF is now providing at least 540,000 liters of clean through fixed and mobile water points—trucks, tanks, taps, and stands—and house-to-house distribution. MSF is also providing containers and buckets to families who need them and helping local communities clean and rehabilitate contaminated wells.
MSF staff conducting an assessment in a Pakistani village that was battered by the flooding.
“It’s worrisome that some families with small pumps at home have started using their water source again,” explained Muhammad Shakeel, a member of MSF’s water and sanitation team in Nowshera. “This is not good because the water is still contaminated, and this can lead to many waterborne diseases. We will continue to provide safe water until we can put in place a system to check if the water is good enough for daily use.”
With the threat of more rainfall and new floods still looming, MSF continues to provide affected and displaced people with basic necessities to help them maintain a minimal standard of living and prevent the spread of diseases.
In Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, more than 14,675 relief kits and 4,855 tents have been distributed. A typical kit includes buckets, soap, laundry soap, a tooth brush, a jerry can, hygiene items for women, a towel, plastic mugs, kitchen utensils, plastic sheeting, tents, a mattress, and water purification tablets. In the coming days, as teams assess new locations more relief kits and tents will be provided to those in need.
Health Workers: A Vital Component
Health promotion workers are playing a crucial role in raising awareness about health risks. During distributions, for instance, they show people how to use water purification tablets to obtain safe drinking water. Relief packages distributed typically include 20 purification tablets, which, when used properly, allow a family of seven to have safe, clean water for a period of two weeks.
In Dera Murad Jamali, to take another example, MSF is concerned that unhygienic conditions are compounding pre-existing malnutrition issues. Health workers are therefore also addressing both hygiene and nutrition. Furthermore, at an emergency feeding program that predates the floods, MSF is currently treating at least 300 children younger than 5 years old for severe malnutrition.
Since 1988, MSF has been providing medical assistance to Pakistani nationals and Afghan refugees suffering from the effects of armed conflicts, poor access to health care, and natural disasters in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Baluchistan, and Kashmir. MSF does not accept funding from any government for its work in Pakistan and chooses to rely solely on private donations.
Relief kits distributed: 14,675 kits to 14,675 families
or approximately 102,725 people
Tents distributed: 4,855
Clean water distribution per day: over 540,000 liters
Water Access Points: 52
Consultations in hospitals and mobile clinics: 16,664
Mobile clinics: 14
3 in Dera Murad Jamali
1 in Khabula
1 in Sobhatpur (Baluchistan)
1 in Malakand
1 in Swat
1 in Lower Dir
3 in Charsadda (KPK)
3 around Sukkhur (Sindh)
Diarrhea Treatment Centres: 6
Malakand, Lower Dir, Swat, Hangu, Kot Addu, and DMJA month after floodwaters began spreading across Pakistan, uprooting thousands of... more
Cholera is endemic to Pakistan, and the current flooding disaster makes it more possible for cholera epidemics to strike. Doctors Without Borders is in Pakistan working around the clock to bring safe water and health kits to the people of this devastated area in the hope of averting a full blown cholera epidemic.Cholera is endemic to Pakistan, and the current flooding disaster makes it more... more
2 Americans among group killed in Afghanistan
updated 5 minutes ago
Ten people -- six Germans, two Americans and two Afghan -- were killed by gunmen in Afghanistan about 15 days ago, police said Saturday
'Foreign doctors' among 10 killed in Afghanistan
By the CNN Wire Staff
August 7, 2010 4:51 a.m. EDT
The eight killed are believed to have been working in the province of Nuristan.
* Six Germans and two Afghans were also killed
* Gunmen stopped the victims on a road, robbed them and shot them
* One Afghan was let go after reciting excerpts from the Quran, police say
* The Germans and Americans were believed to have been doctors
Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Ten people -- six Germans, two Americans and two Afghans -- were killed by gunmen in Afghanistan about 15 days ago, police said Saturday.
The gunmen stopped the victims on a road, took their belongings and shot them one by one, said Aqa Nwor Kentoz, police chief of Badakhshan province.
One Afghan was released because he was reciting excerpts from the Quran, Kentoz said.
The foreigners were believed to have been doctors, according to the police chief. The group of 11 was traveling in three vehicles from Panjshir province to Badakhshan province.
News about the deaths trickled from a local shepherd, who discovered the bodies on Wednesday, to villagers and then to Afghan police.
The International Assistance Mission issued a statement saying the victims were "likely" members of the group's eye camp team.
"The team had been in Nuristan at the invitation of communities there," the international mission said.
"After having completed their medical work, the team was returning to Kabul. At this stage we do not have many details but our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of those who are presumed killed. ... Some of the foreigners have worked alongside the Afghan people for decades."
CNN's Samson Desta contributed to this report.2 Americans among group killed in Afghanistan
updated 5 minutes ago
Ten people... more
It’s getting to be that my fortitude is being tested on a weekly basis. I’ve witnessed the psychotic outrages of THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE (and liked it), the moral confrontation that is THE KILLER INSIDE ME (liked it), and the let’s-put-The-Rock-in-a-tutu TOOTH FAIRY (you’re kidding, right?). But all that was make-believe stuff. LIVING IN EMERGENCY is very real, a documentary, and at points can be rough going. But if you can work up the nerve to tough it out, your courage will be greatly rewarded.
‘Course, if you want to talk about courage, you have to talk about the subjects of the film: four doctors who have volunteered to work for Doctors without Borders (aka Médecins Sans Frontières) in two, war-ravaged countries: the Democratic Republic of Congo and Liberia. Director Mark Hopkins — making his feature documentary debut having previously produced numerous docs — takes his cameras into the exam, operating, and break rooms, and doesn’t flinch from showing both the staggering challenges the volunteers face, and the effect those challenges sometimes have on them (one doctor compares the attitude of another to Heart of Darkness — that’s never a good thing). The film winds up an unwavering, credible evaluation of why the organization has justly received a Nobel Peace Prize — one of the best docs I’ve seen so far this year. It also reminded me why I need to stop whining when I have to watch movies like TOOTH FAIRY.
Click on the link to hear the interview:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dan-persons/emmighty-movie-podcastem_b_601720.htmlIt’s getting to be that my fortitude is being tested on a weekly basis.... more
As one of the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF/Doctors Without Borders) members states in the documentary, “Living in Emergency,” sometimes fixing other people helps fix yourself.
Set in two particularly traumatized nations, Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, this taut film follows the experiences and interactions of a handful of doctors, as they attempt to alleviate suffering in the face of almost overwhelming difficulties.As one of the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF/Doctors Without Borders) members states in... more
2 years ago
Should a revolutionary humanitarian food product be protected by commercial patent, when lifting restrictions might save millions of starving children?Should a revolutionary humanitarian food product be protected by commercial patent,... more
Hey everybody, sorry I have been absent for a few weeks, I was shooting a story in Colombia about some new developments in Narcotrafficking. It was a wild adventure. We are still in the middle of production on the story but look for it in next seasons Vanguard.
I wanted to write today about some of my friends at Doctors Without Borders. Quite frankly Doctors without Borders (known more commonly as MSF) is an invaluable organization for us to collaborate with here at Vanguard. The reason is two-fold. One, MSF acts as the front line eyes and ears for the journalism community. In difficult situations where sometimes the ground truth is obscured by distance, uncooperative governments, nefarious actors, and apathy, MSF is often a great source of unadulterated truth in a land of agendas. I sympathize with them because their agenda is really to provide aide not get sucked into local politics. I've seen this time and time again in places like Yemen and Colombia. The second factor is that often we (Vanguard) couldn’t go to the places we go, without the assistance of MSF. Its often too remote and too dangerous. So naturally when you are sleeping in a small MSF house in a place like Yemen and sharing meals of dubious nutritional value, a lot of bonding occurs. I still maintain contact with some of the doctors I have worked with overseas, and I can tell you they are the most committed and noble group of individuals I have ever encountered in the face of abject difficulty and despair. However, even the most stoic of these doctors can’t help but be impacted by the circumstances they find themselves in.
If you are interested in the life of a humanitarian volunteer, I highly recommend you check out this film called Living in Emergency, a critically acclaimed independent documentary that interweaves the stories of four MSF doctors in war-torn Congo and post-conflict Liberia.
Untitled from LivinginEmergency on Vimeo.
I think the film gives an amazing portrayal of the difficulties facing these kind of humanitarian volunteers as they battle disease, destitution, violence, and poverty.
Watch Kaj Larsen's reporting from Yemen in Vanguard: Beach of Death. Also, check out Kaj's most recent show: Vanguard: Remote Control War.
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Yesterday my colleague Darren wrote about how the world is becoming increasingly dangerous for journalists. While the recent high profile events that Darren mentioned (Roxana Saberi, Laura Ling) have put a spotlight on the perils of journalism, there is an interesting corollary trend that has largely escaped mainstream attention. Slowly but steadily the world is becoming a more dangerous place for humanitarian organizations.
Non-profits, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), aid agencies all used to be afforded a larger degree of protection in the countries and conflicts in which they operated. It’s difficult to define when the trend started occurring, but there has been a rapid escalation in the last two decades of violence against aid organizations. Perhaps the most notable example is the withdrawal of Medecins Sans Frontiers (MSF, or known commonly as Doctors Without Borders in the US) from Afghanistan in 2004. Doctors Without Borders had been providing medical services in Afghanistan since 1980. They fearlessly worked throughout the bloody confrontation with the Soviets, the brutal civil war that followed, and the repressive regime of the Taliban in the 1990s. But, after 24 years of operating in one of the most difficult places on earth, coupled with an incident in which five of their staff members were killed, MSF decided that it was too dangerous to operate in the country. This left a major void and a population without access to basic medical treatment at a time it was desperately needed.
Similarly, last year in Somalia, MSF was forced to halt all operations and withdraw 87 staff members after three of its people were killed in a roadside bomb. This was on the heels of an incident in which two staff members were kidnapped. I was in Somalia in 2006 and could see the rampant escalation of violence against what used to be perceived as neutral actors. When I was in Mogadishu, the UN had pulled out all international staff, using only local Somalis as proxies to conduct their activities.
These are but a few examples. The general trend line is that more and more aid organizations are being targeted in conflict zones. The humanitarian space is rapidly shrinking. Even in places where NGOs can still operate, they have to devote a larger and larger portion of their resources to security, thereby diminishing the care they are able to give to the local population, which in turn makes them perceived less as allies and more as foreigners, which makes the aid organizations more vulnerable. It’s a vicious cycle.
Its reasonable to ask why the humanitarian space is rapidly disintegrating. There is a combination of factors. One component is that in both Iraq and Afghanistan the insurgency style conflict has blurred the lines between combatant and non-combatant. This has had spill-over effect to the NGO community. The UN peacekeeping branding has lost some of its perception as a strict peacekeeping force as well. Blue Helmets with .50 cals don’t exactly scream peace, and it is likely that the NGO community as a whole has been impacted by the changing perception of the UN. Finally there is a more worrisome reason that has been whispered about in the aid community. It has been suggested that the military itself is blurring the line between military action and humanitarian action. In an effort to win hearts and minds, the military is engaging in many of the same types of missions that have traditionally been the domain of humanitarian organizations. Detractors say that when the missions are the same, it makes it less important for combatants to distinguish between the motivations of different organizations. For example when I was in Afghanistan in 2005, I was embedded with the US military when they went on a mission called a MedCap. The purpose was to provide medical care in rural Afghanistan. Some in the humanitarian world claim this is exactly the kind of thing that pollutes the line between aid and military action, and puts providers at risk.
The military disagrees with this analysis and believes it is critical to their efforts to engender good will among the civilian populace. Its difficult to know the answer, but it is troubling that an organization like MSF which survived the Russians, a Civil War, and the Taliban in Afghanistan, couldn’t survive the American occupation.
What is clear though is that what (and who) were once considered safe in some of the most difficult areas in the world are no longer so. Aid workers joke with the gallows style humor that the famous red cross plus sign, used to act a bullet proof vest. A vehicle emblazoned with it on the side could drive through the middle of a fire fight and the shooting would stop. Now its considered a bulls-eye.
Whatever the reasons, the shrinking humanitarian space is a reality with fairly severe consequences. In many places organizations like MSF are the only people operating there. Without them, the populations, become less healthy, more impoverished, and increasingly isolated from the outside world; exactly the root conditions that make them ripe to become conflict zones in the first place.
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