Doctors Without Borders: 40 years of international assistance

December 20, 2011. International NGO “Doctors Without Borders” turned 40 recently. As a way to celebrate, it held a series of lectures in Rome, with members from all over the world.

During the meeting, members discussed a book from the organization, which translates to “Intervening at any Price? It deals with the three principles it tries to deal with when offering help. These include independence, being neutral and impartial.

Christopher Stokes
Doctors Without Borders International, Director General

“The aim of this conference is to explain the principles of independence and impartiality, so it means not taking sides. These principles are very important in conflict areas like Afghanistan, Pakistan or Somalia. Actually, independence is very important for us to be able to negotiate with both sides, to be able to cross front lines and give assistance in conflict.”

It began with a small office in Paris and now the organization has even won a Nobel Peace Prize. Its members have witnessed some of the most dramatic situations in the last few decades. Disasters like the 1988 earthquake that hit Armenia, killing roughly 100,000 people.

In addition to helping out with natural disasters, the group also helps victims involved in armed conflicts. Often times the risk is high and sometimes members even risk their own lives. The most significant was the 1994 genocide in Rwanda that resulted in the death of  250 aid workers from Doctors Without Borders.

Even though they don't intervene directly with the conflicts, Doctors Without Borders sometimes condemn some of the situations through the media.  They say, the problem arises when the media does not report on the situation.

Christopher Stokes
Doctors Without Borders International, Director General

“If you go to ask people in the street which country has invaded another country in the last three months, nobody would tell you that it's Kenya that has actually sent troops into Somalia and this is actually what happened. I'm not making a judgment on that, what i am saying is that the situation in the Horn of Africa, in Somalia or in the conflict there is escalating. The situation with the populations is really dramatic and there's very little news and very little reporting about it. It's a forgotten crisis.”

NGOs like Doctors Without Borders or Oxfam International say that unfortunately, the media doesn't report the full picture when it comes to humanitarian crisis.

Ian Bray
Oxfam International, Director of Emergencies

“The important thing about journalism is to make an independent scrutiny of the story.  It's really important that the journalist is independent from the sources, so that they can give an independent view for the public of what is happening in the world. They should be independent they should stick to journalism ethics.  So the more journalists who do that,  the much better picture the public will get.”

Doctors Without Borders helps marginalized communities in roughly 60 countries. Its funding is based primarily on private donations.

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