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The challenges facing MSF in supporting the Ebola DRC response


Employees of Médecins Sans Frontières speak to an employee in an isolation facility, ready to accept suspected Ebola cases, at Mbandaka General Hospital, in Mbandaka, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by: REUTERS / Kenny Katombe

CANBERRA – The response to an epidemic starts in the community, according to Dr. Joanne Liu, international president Médecins Sans Frontières. But with the current Ebola case facing the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liu said that Devex communities had been left behind, creating a failure in the response.

“The community is confused,” he said. “They said we were coming, driving too fast on the streets and going out in astronauts suits. Then I would take their loved ones that they will never see again. They don't understand what is happening. ”

“Humanitarian aid is only tolerated when it serves a political agenda from countries.

– Dr. Joanne Liu, international president, MSF

It 's worse, Liu said, after decades of DRC being ignored by the world, while malaria and pneumonia still claim regular lives.

“And after that Ebola comes – it's another issue among many others. But this makes it very difficult for the community to understand why – having faced many objections over decades – suddenly, the world comes to them eager to include Ebola. ”

Keynote speaker at the World Congress for Disaster and Emergency Medicine on Disaster and Emergency Medicine held in Brisbane, Australia, from May 7-10, Liu noted Ebola crisis in discussing the future of emergency response. The growing security mindset in responding to humanitarian emergencies, he said, was dangerous to distort the response and management and create more sharing with communities that need support.

Fight the security mindset

“We are in a position that nations are only reacting and motivating them when they feel their nation is at stake,” Liu said, sharing her thoughts about risks to humanitarian responses that she is afraid of growing.

“This is what we saw in 2014 and 2015 with the case of Ebola in West Africa. Only when people started returning to their home countries in the United States or Europe were paying attention – Ebola was knocking at their door. ”

The safety mindset, he said, is now at the forefront of the decision to respond to emergencies. Apart from Ebola, Liu said that this was also seen in the response to the needs of migrants and refugees with many countries seeing this as a “crisis” when refugees appear on their borders – although it is a crisis long before the that point.

“With a security mindset, people will always respond late,” says Liu. “Instead of responding promptly, they will stay instead until they feel threatened.”

And it also affects the government's findings of humanitarian aid and its providers.

“Humanitarian aid is only tolerated when it serves a political agenda from countries.

Preparing for the future

The theme of the WADEM congress was the future of emergency medicine – and Liu told Devex that this security mindset is one of the biggest challenges that MSF will face that can affect its ability to respond to emergencies. and access to those in need of support.

As well as responding to hot emergencies including Ebola, refugees and immigrants will continue to focus on moving governments around the world away from security thinking.

“This will continue to be a challenge for us because it affects everywhere,” said Liu. “We harden a discussion on refugees and migrants and what we have been facing over the last few years is the criminalization of immigrants and refugees as well as people who support those who are t 39. fleeing.

“This happened to us in Gibraltar last year when our boat was scrapped. This happened twice in a row and we had to give the best to our rescue in the Mediterranean. ”

MSF also faces greater difficulty in accessing populations due to safety concerns. Syria, Yemen, and West Africa are among these regional challenges.

“People can't get access to medication – we've been reckless about this,” said Liu.

And it is beginning to prepare for climate change – especially in the Pacific knowing that this is also an area that many governments will not prepare for until it is declared a crisis. officially.

“Going to the security mindset, it's important that we understand that people are afraid but that we should not be motivated – fear is a good servant but a bad master, and we need to reject it, ”said Liu. “If we don't, we will always be late.”

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