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Christmas Appeal: Gibson Chijaka—I cannot hold back my joy

19 Dec, 14 | by BMJ

Gibson_Chijaka_grandmotherMy name is Gibson Chijaka, and for the last two years I have endured dozens of nauseating tablets every day. Today, I am so happy and cannot hold back my joy; I am cured of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB).

Me with my grandmother, Margaret Kadzere, October 2014. © Stambuli Kim/MSF more…

Christmas Appeal: An intensive care unit in a conflict zone

12 Dec, 14 | by BMJ

MSF OCA Staff PortraitsTwo people with gunshot wounds are brought to the MSF hospital in Leer. They were at a celebration the previous evening when someone entered and started shooting. Five people were seriously injured. Two of them managed to reach our hospital, but the other three died on the way. more…

Thomas Nierle and Bruno Jochum: MSF should not replace governmental responsibilities on Ebola

9 Dec, 14 | by BMJ

Thomas Nierle_2Bruno Jochim_2MEP Charles Goerens, rapporteur on Ebola to the European Parliament’s Committee on Development, recently declared in a European Council meeting that this epidemic is “the first major international crisis in which the lead should be given to an NGO [non-governmental organisation]—in this case, Médecins Sans Frontières.”

Given that we have repeatedly called for greater leadership from the international community, including the European Union, this proposal took us by surprise. We have interpreted this appeal, coming from an MEP who has also publicly criticised the inadequate reactions of European states in the face of the epidemic, as a symptom of the failure of existing public response mechanisms and, even more so, of the huge collective difficulty in taking action. more…

Christmas Appeal: Benjamin Black on Ebola through his eyes

5 Dec, 14 | by BMJ

Benjamin BlackWhen I begin each day I feel like I know what to expect. I have been in and out of west Africa since June, and watched this sad story developing both as a direct witness on the inside, and as an observer from afar when back home.

In the Ebola treatment centre where I work, I always go to look at the large board of patients’ names at the start of my day. How many have died overnight, and how many will be discharged to singing and clapping as “cured?” more…

Grania Brigden: Mind the deadly gaps in the TB response

11 Nov, 14 | by BMJ

grania_brigdenThe 45th Union World Conference on Lung Health, recently held in Barcelona, opened with the health ministers of South Africa and India making bold commitments to address and reverse the tuberculosis epidemics in their countries. Five other countries also committed to ending TB, resulting in the birth of the Barcelona Declaration on TB.

This political commitment is desperately needed. The recently published World Health Organization Global TB Report 2014 highlighted not only the increasing number of cases, but also the growing crisis in tackling drug resistant TB. The reality for those infected with multidrug resistant TB (MDR-TB) is that they have only a one in eight chance of being identified, correctly diagnosed, started on treatment, and cured. This is not acceptable. more…

The price of joining the middle income country club: reduced access to medical innovation

10 Oct, 14 | by BMJ

When people think about medical humanitarian aid, the usual association is with war zones and natural disasters, and the assumption is that the most critical medical needs are concentrated in the world’s poorest countries. That’s mostly right, but not entirely.

While the needs of low income countries remain huge, there are large—and growing—populations excluded from access to healthcare who now live in countries classified as middle income countries (MIC). This shift presents enormous challenges, particularly in accessing new lifesaving drugs and vaccines for diseases that take a disproportionately high toll on poor, marginalized populations. more…

Grazia Caleo: Ebola—a blind outbreak

18 Sep, 14 | by BMJ

Grazia-Caleo-Ebola_2In José Saramago’s book Blindness, he describes an epidemic of an unknown infection that causes people to lose their sight. A single person remains uninfected to bear witness to the anger, chaos, violence, and death generated by the spread of disease.

In the novel, humanity’s descent into blindness represents the loss of reason and shows how fear can cause dramatic social breakdown. At the same time, the clear vision of one person represents the opportunity to restore light.

What I saw in Sierra Leone, as an epidemiologist working on Ebola, reminded me of Saramago’s book. more…

Sarah Woznick: A nurse’s account of working in Gaza

21 Jul, 14 | by BMJ

msf_gazaSarah Woznick is a specialist intensive care nurse working with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF/ Doctors Without Borders). She arrived in Gaza six months ago from Denver, Colorado. She was due to leave the mission the day after operation “Protective Edge” began, but decided to stay on to help provide medical care.

Image: Sarah in the intensive care unit of Nasser hospital, Gaza. Credit: MSF. 

I was scheduled to leave Gaza the day after the military operation “Protective Edge” started. That first day there were lots of air strikes in our area. It’s a strange feeling when you realise that one is falling not far from you. Now I am a little more accustomed, but it still makes me jump from time to time. All of us think about our Palestinian colleagues. The MSF compound is a safe place, but their homes might not be, and we worry about them and their families. more…

MSF Scientific Day 2014: The role of evidence in humanitarian aid

22 May, 14 | by BMJ

SCIENTIFICDAY_FINAL_LOGOSThis year marks the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, in which between 500 000 and a million people were brutally killed. The international community failed to act and MSF concluded that “you can’t stop genocide with doctors.” The aftermath of the genocide included analysis of the failures of humanitarian aid, and led to moves to improve its quality and accountability. But how far has humanitarian aid moved since then?

In the past year, the bloody conflicts in the Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan, and Syria have reached unspeakable levels of violence that have tested the limits of humanitarian assistance. Last month, three MSF colleagues were among 16 people killed during a meeting at the MSF hospital in Boguila, CAR. MSF activities have been scaled down in the area as a result. In 2013, unable to guarantee the safety of its staff, MSF took the difficult decision to leave Somalia after 22 years. And, last week, five MSF staff were finally released after being kidnapped in Syria in January; again resulting in MSF having to withdraw medical assistance from populations in dire need. more…

Estrella Lasry: Malaria control in emergencies—time for action

25 Apr, 14 | by BMJ

A lunar landscape, cracked earth, and scorching heat. 4,000 rudimentary tents made from wooden poles and plastic sheeting. And people everywhere, 95% of them women and children, according to camp authorities, and a few men, hoping at least to find safety and security, and perhaps even to make a first step towards a new life. It’s another day at one of the refugee camps where Médecins Sans Frontiéres (MSF) is working in Ethiopia, and “home” to thousands of South Sudanese people fleeing the latest wave of violence in their country. Any day now the rainy season will begin, bringing floods, and creating endless breeding sites for mosquitoes, and with them a new spike in malaria. more…

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