by Himabindu Venkatakrishnan on  February 25, 2015 at 12:18 PM Health In Focus
Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières)
Médecins Sans Frontières, also known as Doctors Without Borders, is a humanitarian-aid non-governmental organization that volunteers to aid people in places of mass violence, medical neglect, endemic disease outbreaks or a catastrophe. Doctors Without Borders was founded in 1971, by a group of French doctors and journalists to reinvent the concept of emergency aid. By 2007, over 26,000 doctors, nurses, medical professionals, water and sanitation engineers, logistical experts and administrators provided medical aid in more than 60 countries.

MSF aims to intervene in any crisis on the basis of the people's needs and does not consider any political, economic or religious interests of the place or people. They are free to act and make decisions independently and this feature makes them act quickly without waiting for prior permission from the government or any kind of law. Thus, they are the first to be on the scene of crisis, sometimes even before the media reaches there.

Facts on Doctors Without Borders:

  • MSF is an impartial organization that aims to provide high-quality medical care to the needy, as soon as possible.
  • MSF is not connected to any particular country, political party or religious faith.
  • On any given day, one can find that more than 30,000 volunteers that include doctors, nurses, therapists, medical professionals, engineers, logisticians, water and sanitation experts and administrators would be on the job, providing medical care in some part around the world.
  • MSF aims to provide medical relief and food and shelter to crises such as armed conflict, malnutrition, natural disasters, epidemics, exclusion from health care, negligence of medical facilities or remote areas where medical facilities are not present.
  • The medical and logistical departments work together to incorporate current research advances and innovations into the work being carried out. Specialized medical kits and equipment is deployed right away as soon as they reach the site of disaster. These medical kits may contain everything required to set up an operating room right in the middle of a war-front, or immense supplies needed for the immediate use on hundreds of patients affected with an endemic disease like Ebola or Cholera.
  • "Epicenter" is the name of MSF's epidemiological research arm. It studies and appraises the medical and nutritional needs in their area of operation, improving protocols and treatment strategies and developing high quality medical care initiatives in field projects.

How does the team at Doctors Without Borders work?

1. When a crisis breaks, needs are gauged, staff of the area is mobilized or an emergency team reaches the spot immediately. Emergency supplies from medicines, surgical kits to inflatable hospitals are always ready. Cash reserves collected from the various donations and government aids are mobilized.

2. The emergency team is a group of professionals and experts in key areas such as medical care, logistics, crisis response and management. The emergency team is always ready to be deployed to the crisis areas within hours of an emergency. In Haiti, for example, the first victim of the 2010's earthquake was treated within five minutes.

3. The emergency team provides initial assessment of the situation and sends report and proposal to the MSF headquarters office, which sends personnel, materials, resources and securing funds.

4. Materials, protocols, specialized kits and equipment are transported within hours.

5. MSF stays in a project field for a few weeks to months or years. Sometimes, the work may carry on for over a decade.

6. MSF services wind up when the epidemic or conflict has abated or local organizations take over the operations.

Who can join Doctors Without Borders?

MSF strives for diverse team members without any regard to age, sex, race, religion, sexual orientation or disability. Any person who is willing to:
  • Commit at least for a period of 9 to 12 months
  • Travel and adjust to the conditions of the field of work
  • Be flexible and adaptable to situations and crisis
  • Be able to handle stress in the field.
To volunteer in the Doctors Without Borders, one needs at least 2 years of relevant experience in their profession. They must have an ability to work with a diverse group of professionals. Computer skills and knowing many languages are added assets.

The professionals are required in the field of:
  • Physicians and Surgeons
  • Anesthetists - Doctors and nurses
  • Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
  • Epidemiologists
  • Pharmacists
  • Registered Mental health specialists
  • Laboratory Scientists
  • Financial Administrators
  • Human Resource Administrators
  • Registered Nurses
  • General and Technical Logisticians
  • Infectious Diseases Specialists
  • Nurse-Midwives
Any person willing to offer volunteer services at the office can also provide support to the permanent staff.

Funds for Doctors Without Borders

About 90% of the funds come from individual donors who pool up small amounts. Funds from governments and large institutions may require a lot of paper work, which might take time. Private and unrestricted funds allow quick decision-making and execution.

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