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Doctors Without Borders analyses


Living in Emergency

December 2009 -- Living in Emergency, which will be in U.S. theaters on April 17, tells the stories of four developed world physicians who have worked on Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) aid missions in Congo and Liberia. The documentary feature offers a somewhat confused but still fairly engaging look at MSF's work in these war-torn nations. Of course, the film is an advertisement for MSF, but it is admirably frank about tensions between foreign and local staff, the stress of confronting widespread suffering in dangerous areas, and the despair that critical resource shortages can cause. The film even offers some insights on foreign aid work. But it mostly ignores MSF's local staff, and completely ignores its nurses and logistics officers, all of whom play key roles in the Nobel Prize-winning group's work. Although nurses are the most numerous MSF health professionals, this film is almost entirely about physicians, who do virtually all of the talking and acting. Viewers learn what the physicians do, what they think, and how they feel. Other MSF staff may flit across the screen, unidentified, but they are portrayed as peripheral to the stories that matter: those of the casually heroic physicians who provide all meaningful care to these populations in great need. In the end, the distorted film's treatment of emergency aid mirrors that of MSF's name:  it's a physician thing. more...


Infirmieres Sans Frontières

December 3, 2006 -- Recently, the Nobel Prize-winning Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) launched a U.S. tour of an exhibit highlighting the global aid group's vital work in conflict zones. "A Refugee Camp in the Heart of the City" features MSF aid workers guiding visitors through a model of actual relief facilities. The exhibit explains the challenges MSF faces in providing care, nutrition, and decent living conditions. This is a perfect time to thank the group for its admirable work--and to note that its continuing use of the name "Doctors Without Borders" sends an inaccurate message about who is doing that work. We understand nurses are the most numerous health professionals among MSF workers, and they play a central role in the group's efforts. Yet when journalist Suzanne Gordon suggested to a physician MSF leader that the group consider adopting a name that did not slight its nurses, the leader said that she hoped MSF would never be so "stupid" as to do so. The Truth has tried to discuss the matter with MSF for two months, but we have gotten no real response. The group's name seems to reflect the undervaluation of nursing that is undermining health worldwide, particularly in the developing nations MSF tries to help. We doubt that MSF would suffer by phasing in a similar name, like "Soins Sans Frontières" ("Health Care Without Borders"). We urge MSF to give its own nurses the credit they deserve--and that nurses everywhere need to help their patients. more...


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