Doctors Without Frontiers or Médecins sans frontières (MSF) willingly jeopardize their lives and safety to deliver medical care to those in need. Katrin Kuntz summarizes their experiences as “the deadly business of War-zone medical care” here.
Paul Mcmaster who works as a surgeon with the MSF attacks can come from the ground, which is the case in most war zones. Working in Syria, however, has made doctors apprehensive of dangers from the air.
MSF personnel provides care on a needs alone basis.
MSF demonstrates its independence to warring parties by ensuring that all funding comes from private individuals and not governments.
Doctors Without Frontiers experience firsthand the effects of conflicts in war zones. Their work continues to face hurdles that led to the formation of the non-governmental organization in 1971 by a group of French physicians working in Nigeria during the deadly famine and civil war in Biafra.
MSF sought to address frustrations caused by the slow pace of work and restrictions on doctors’ activities.
War and conflicts potentially disrupt the core functions of MSF, which include:
- Administrative/finance, and
The experiences from the disruptions are diverse and affect the doctors and patients in different ways.
Emotional and physical toll
Everyone is different implying hey handle stress in disparate ways. Incidences of doctors completely shutting down and disengaging emotionally to utter hysteria are common occurrences. In most cases, they result from the cross-cultural differences in how to deal with stress.
Doctors who push themselves too much may need artificial relaxers to calm down after long hours of work.
A significant proportion of MSF doctors who work in the emergency pool – an elite team of first-responders who have proven themselves to be able to handle the chaos of emergencies and are on call for 24 hours – often end up with post stress traumatic disorder (PSTD). Some adopt behaviours such as drinking and smoking that are risky to their health.
War and conflicts, regardless of stature, leads to fear of persecution and violence, uprooting communities and rendering them in need of urgent medical care. Trauma injuries rise during conflicts, and so do problems for people needing routine medical care such as pregnant women and the chronically ill such as diabetics.
Psychological distress and mental illnesses escalate. Sexual violence becomes common.
MSF doctors face the challenge of addressing these medical needs and highly tense environments.
MSF teams demonstrate a great deal of flexibility where violence engulfs their areas of operation. In 2011 when medical facilities in Misrata, Libya were engulfed in violence, MSF doctors had to evacuate the wounded patients safely and quickly out of the city.
Doctors are forced to risk their lives and those of their patients.
The situation worsens with the increase in the portrayal of war zones as death traps. Governments continue to ignore the rights of their enemies in the name of fighting terror – by objecting to their treatment.
The development presents extreme dangers to MSF personnel. Warring parties are likely to see them as sympathizers of the enemy by disregarding neutrality.
“Medical under fire” is a phrase used to refer to an unsettling trend that makes MSF work difficult, denying thousands of victims medical care. Reports of hospital attacks in war zones are common news feature. The horrific attacks involve the destruction of medical infrastructure and attacks on aid workers.
- The US Air Force attacked an MSF hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan in October 2015, killing forty-two people including fourteen MSF staff.
- On January 2015, an MSF hospital with 150 patients and staff in Farandalla was bombed by a jet operated by the Sudanese regime.
- In May 2018, unknown assailants attacked an MSF vehicle in the Central Republic of Africa, killing its driver.
- In late July 2016, the Syrian regime attacked four MSF run hospital in Aleppo.
MSF personnel continue to face dangers working in the battlefield. The largest contributor is the growing intolerance of enemies by governments as the war on terror and criminals escalates.