A year in pictures 2017
From war and civil strife, to disease and epidemics, to natural disasters, MSF staff have been on the frontline of saving lives during 2017. Our talented and dedicated photographers have been there every step of the way to bear witness to the stories of the past year, capturing the work of our teams and the ongoing battle to save those in peril in our world.
Responding to the Call
Whether we’re responding to disease outbreaks, disasters, healthcare exclusion or conflict, the welfare of our patients is at the centre of everything we do.
Last year, ongoing crises in the DRC, South Sudan and Yemen continued to require most of our resources. But at the same time, unexpected emergencies spurred us into action in places like Bangladesh, where I work at Doctors Without Borders’ (MSF) project assisting Rohingya refugees.
In my last five years as a fieldworker, I’ve met and come to know many patients. And in their experiences I’ve found a common thread: ordinary people – not much different from you and I – fall into dire circumstances beyond their control, and lose almost everything as a result.
In Bangladesh, we are witness to the aftermath of massive displacement and loss. The Rohingya, a Muslim minority group, are denied citizenship in their own country Myanmar, and have suffered persecution for decades. Late last year, extreme violence left at least 6,700 Rohingya dead and caused more than 600,000 to flee. Even after finding refuge in Bangladesh, they remain unregistered in their neighbouring country and are essentially “stateless”.
Coming from South Africa – with its own history of oppression – I recognise the plight of the Rohingya as an example of people who have had their humanity and agency stripped away: their lives are either in the hands of those perpetrating violence against them, or in the hands of the benefactors from whom they seek help.
In many places where we work, the sense of hopelessness is almost tangible. Although there isn’t much MSF can do to change the politics of peoples’ situations, what we can do – and what we have done for our Rohingya patients – is provide medical care that gives them control over their lives and bodies once again.
Since last August, our Bangladesh teams have carried out more than 500,000 medical consultations and admitted more than 10,000 patients. Because of donations like yours, we are able to offer essential medication, much-needed psychological care, and treatment for deadly conditions such as diphtheria. Your support helps us fight the spread of diseases in the refugee camps, preventing many more mortalities. (Read more about how your funds were used in our Annual Activity Report).
And the impact is in more than just the numbers. I remember one day in our hospital, the team treated a baby while her caretaker sat beside her. As I passed by, the caretaker looked up and, despite the language barrier between us, her face lit up. She made a gesture to say ‘thank you’. In that moment, our eyes met and we made a genuine connection – one made possible only by the medical assistance fieldworkers and donors collectively bring.
It was a small moment, but one that will always stay with me because it reminds me that MSF’s work, and our solidarity with patients, touches the core needs of humanity. It acknowledges peoples’ struggles and trauma, and tries to find a way to help.
For our patients, especially those who are displaced, the stories are often similar: there is a line of loss that runs through these difficult moments of their lives. But that loss isn’t all there is. There are stories of hope and resilience (like those in this issue of Mamela) that remind us that by ensuring patients’ medical needs are taken care of, you as a donor and I as a fieldworker can help bring hope and dignity back to where it once was lost.
Thanking you for your continued support of our patients around the world.
Emergency Medical Coordinator
Doctors Without Borders (MSF)