What is Doctors Without Borders

Commitment to "Doctors Without Borders"

Idealism and a thirst for adventure

"I'm not a particularly brave person, and the idea of ​​privation and danger - even if it is limited - scares me. At the same time, it appeals to me, because how, without getting into such a situation, I would ever find out how I react to them. You can only grow by doing something different, "writes doctor and psychotherapist Markus Fritz in a blog post for" Doctors Without Borders ".

Fritz worked on a project on Mount Elgon in western Kenya until the end of 2007, taking care of people traumatized during the war.

In 1971, French doctors and journalists founded what is now the largest organization for medical emergency aid: "Médecins Sans Frontières" (MSF). Their aim was to provide medical help to people in need quickly and independently of national borders and at the same time to point out their situation.

Today there are MSF sections in 23 countries and regions, the German one is called "Doctors Without Borders".

While only three doctors were on duty in the first project, almost 65,000 employees in around 70 countries around the world helped in 2019. And these are by far not just doctors. Many projects would not work without nurses, midwives, pharmacists, logisticians, technicians and financial specialists.

Who can participate?

If you work in one of these professions, you can apply and after the selection process is over, you will be included in a candidate pool. "Doctors Without Borders" then looks for a project that suits the applicant, there is a preparatory seminar and then it starts. The organization takes over the travel costs, accommodation and meals on site.

In addition, the employees receive employment contracts that are subject to social security contributions, so they continue to pay into pension and health insurance, among other things. And there is an expense allowance of around 1000 euros per month.

Since most employees have to commit for a period of at least nine months, many quit their jobs. Some can also be exempted.

Financially independent through donations

"Doctors Without Borders" is financed to around 90 percent from private donations. In addition, there are subsidies from the Foreign Office and income from interest, company partnerships and reimbursement of costs.

In 2019, the German section raised more than 170 million euros in this way. Almost 90 percent of this was spent directly on the projects.

This also includes paying for the care of the donors and the administration of the donation data, mailing campaigns, stand advertising on the street, advertisements and shares in the donor magazine Akut. "Doctors Without Borders" has the seal of the German Central Institute for Social Issues - a sign of the responsible handling of donations.

Improvisation is everything

MSF primarily helps with natural disasters, fighting epidemics like the Corona virus, in conflict areas like Sudan and treating neglected diseases like tuberculosis in Swaziland.

Mostly local doctors and helpers work on site with international support. In small projects, the doctors often have to take on many tasks in parallel.

Like the doctor Christoph Höhn, who works in a project to combat tuberculosis in Tajikistan and could schedule three times an hour.

"Visits to two hospitals, home visits to outpatients, meetings with treating doctors, team meetings and so much more," he writes on his blog for MSF. At the same time, he tries to train local doctors so that they can take over everything after his ten months in the project.

The cooperation of international employees and employees from the country of assignment is the basis of the "Doctors Without Borders" projects. Both sides benefit.

The nurse Irene Mazza, who has worked in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, agrees: "MSF brings hygiene, logistics and medical knowledge to the projects. The locals show us how to make a lot out of a little. If there is no tie-off, you take it hold an IV set to constrict the vein. "

In addition, the local people establish contact with the population, help build trust and overcome cultural problems.

Logistics can save lives

In the first few years after MSF was founded, doctors and nurses moved to the crisis areas with little more than a suitcase full of medication.

Today "Doctors Without Borders" is a very effective aid organization that can react quickly. There are over 500 different emergency kits in the organization's logistics centers, such as in Brussels. They contain antibiotics, pain relievers, clinical thermometers and bandages, among other things.

With one kit, 1,000 people in a crisis area can be supplied with the most important medicines for three months. Cost: 695 euros.

Depending on the emergency situation, these can be sent immediately because they are already packed and cleared by customs. In this way, they get to where they are most urgently needed in the shortest possible time.

Thanks to the professional logistics, helpers can achieve incredible things: For example, MSF employees in Chad vaccinated almost 40,000 people against meningitis in two weeks.

Black hours

News of the death of "Doctors Without Borders" employees are shocking and leave you perplexed and angry. As in December 2011: At that time, two MSF employees were killed in Somalia, and their convicted murderer was subsequently released early from custody.

The organization in Somalia then made a radical cut: after 22 years of emergency medical aid in the country, it closed all projects in August 2013.

"By killing, attacking or kidnapping aid workers, armed groups and the civil authorities who tolerate their actions have sealed the fate of countless people in Somalia," said Dr. Unni Karunakara, the international president of MSF.

MSF also withdrew from Afghanistan in 2004 because the organization could no longer guarantee the safety of its employees. What made the situation more difficult was the political attempt to use the aid organization for their own purposes.

In Afghanistan, for example, leaflets were distributed by the US-led military coalition. In which they called on the Afghan people to pass on information about the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda terrorists. Otherwise they would no longer receive any humanitarian aid.

"Humanitarian aid is repeatedly instrumentalized by politicians - this endangers our employees and harms those in need in conflict areas. If we are seen as the extended arm of an intervention force, the risk for our employees and patients increases," says Frank Dörner, the managing director of " Doctors Without Borders".

Today MSF is still active in Afghanistan again. However, only as long as it can guarantee the safety of employees as well as possible. Political and financial independence and impartiality are therefore vital for "Doctors Without Borders".

Experience for life

What motivates the employees of "Doctors Without Borders" is not the money. It is the experiences, both positive and negative, that make the commitment unforgettable for other people.

This is how the doctor Kanya violence describes her time in Chad: "For me the ten months were a long time that I would have liked to fast forward. I would have liked to go to a supermarket in between and buy chocolate. But if I had to go to the children Thinking of the street, waving to me with a laugh or reminding me of the motivated faces of the national employees on the rounds, I would also exchange the tastiest chocolate for making a small or big difference in the lives of many people with all their individual fates. "

What remains with all returnees is the insight into a world that we often cannot imagine here. Many shape the experience for life. Some of them work again and again for "Doctors Without Borders" or other aid organizations. And the pride remains to be part of the now large global MSF family.

In 1999, the aid organization received the greatest possible award for the idealism that MSF employees still live today: the Nobel Peace Prize. Because MSF not only helps individual people, but also contributes to creating peace.

"In critical situations marked by violence and brutality, the humanitarian work of 'Médecins Sans Frontières' often prepares the ground for negotiations between the warring parties. For those affected, every courageous and self-sacrificing volunteer is a person who is impartial and with respect for theirs Recognizes and reflects personal dignity. All of this is a source of hope for peace and reconciliation for people in need, "said the jury's statement of reasons.