Doctors Without Borders
A group of French doctors founded an organization called Medecins Sans Frontieres in 1971. Bernard Kouchner was a co-founder, having worked as an aid volunteer in Biafra, and he decided that a new humanitarian aid network was needed. Also known as Doctors Without Borders, it was set up as a non-political and non-religious organization designed to work in a completely neutral way. Volunteers are chosen to spend time in developing countries affected by natural disasters, war, disease, famine and drought. They include doctors, nurses and surgeons. The volunteers help to deliver emergency medical aid and long term treatment programs with help to combat malnutrition and the effects of contaminated water. Most of the medical staff has had some training in tropical medicine.
Because of the nature of the work, volunteers find themselves in dangerous situations, and have been the victims of attack and politically motivated kidnappings. Two volunteers were killed in Sudan when their plane was shot down during the Sudan Civil War. They have been present in other civil war situations; in the Lebanon, Liberia and Somali to help civilians and refugees. Doctors Without Borders have been involved in other African countries such as Rwanda, the Congo and Uganda. Nutritional programs were developed in Ethiopia during the 1984-1985 famine there. HIV and Aids education programs and drugs treatment is also included in their care.
Whenever possible, the helpers like to introduce campaigns which will benefit the local community in the long term. Doctors Without Borders train local medical staff and set up vaccination drives. The vaccinations are for diseases, some of which hardly exist in developed countries. They include measles, meningitis, yellow fever, diphtheria and polio. They also help to provide clean, drinking water to prevent disease and they test for Aids. Treatment is given for malaria, cholera, ebola and tuberculosis. Dehydration can often result in diarrhea.
The organization has been involved in over 70 countries now. The first mission was to Nicaragua in 1972 to help victims of the earthquake, followed by a period in Honduras after a hurricane hit. From 1975-1979, volunteers ran refugee camps in Thailand to give shelter to Cambodians who were fleeing for their lives from the Khymer Rouge. Refugees were helped again, in Afghanistan as a result of the Soviet invasion. More earthquake victims were helped in 1986 in El Salvador when the population was in dire need of a pure, water supply.
This commendable organization was given the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999 and continues its commitment to providing medical aid. It also puts pressure on pharmaceutical companies in its bid to bring affordable drugs to the developing world. Relying for the majority of its funding from private donors, Doctors Without Borders helps those most in need, without regard to color, race or religion.
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