Doctors Without Borders

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In 1971, a small group of doctors in Paris formed an organization. Their goal was to provide emergency medical aid, no matter where it is needed or who needs it. This was the beginning of Medecins Sans Frontieres, (MSF) or, in English, Doctors Without Borders. The philosophy of MSF is that all people have the right to medical care, regardless of race, religion, or nationality. Today, according to MSF, the world needs medical doctors who can provide aid to any nation quickly, efficiently, and without political pressures. MSF began as “a couple of doctors with a suitcase and a dream.” Now it is the largest nongovernmental organization for emergency medical relief. It has offices in twenty countries and has provided medical help in eighty-five countries, including Rwanda, Chechnya, Kosovo, Liberia, Afghanistan, and Iraq. MSF sends teams not only to locations that are in the spotlight but also to places where forgotten wars continue to cause suffering. Because so much of MSF’s work is done in dangerous locations, it requires great bravery to be an MSF worker. MSF workers have been shot at, wounded, kidnapped, and killed. They have also been infected with diseases that they were trying to fight. All of MFS’s international workers are volunteers. Only a small number of volunteers are doctors. Most volunteers serve as nurses, medical technicians, sanitation engineers, and administrators. Although the volunteers are paid only a small amount to cover their cost of living, they are rewarded in many other ways. One doctor said that practicing medicine at a refugee camp was like getting a hands-on lesson in the history of medicine, far away from his everyday experiences in a modern medical center. Another volunteer summed up her work this way: “It’s a life-changing experience.” MSF is best known for its rapid response in times of crisis. When a medical emergency occurs, MSF sends in an advance team to find out what kind of help is needed. This team arranges transportation,...
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