Médecins Sans Frontières

msf in haitimsf in haitiWhat would you do if your child was on the edge of death and you had no way to contact a doctor? What would you do if a natural disaster or war had left you and your neighbors injured and homeless?

Médecins Sans Frontières (known in the U.S. as Doctors Without Borders) is an international medical humanitarian organization devoted to supporting and aiding people in lands crippled by poverty, violence or catastrophic events. They have brought medical aid and public health services to places such as Rwanda, Kosovo, the Congo region, and Haiti. MSF was created in 1971 and has been saving lives all around the world ever since.

Dr. James Orbinski is a well known humanitarian activist and a former President of MSF. He accepted the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize on the organization’s behalf. His book, An Imperfect Offering, recounts his experiences in Somalia and Rwanda, while asking tough questions about one's responsibilities to the suffering. Triage is a documentary that follows Dr. Orbinski as he returns to Africa. This powerful film questions the ability of one individual to effect change in the face of political forces we cannot control. Triage “celebrates the best in the human spirit while staring unblinkingly at the worst.”

For several perspectives of what it is like to enter a crisis zone to save lives, see Writing On The Edge: Great Contemporary Writers On The Front Line Of Crisis, a collection of essays from 14 different authors.

The Photographer is an award winning account of one man’s journey into Afghanistan with MSF during its war with the Soviet Union. This moving graphic novel uses photographs taken during the journey to help the reader understand the mental and emotional pressures felt by the author.

Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders is a recently released Oscar-nominated documentary focusing not on the work of MSF, but on the lives of doctors and volunteers who have chosen to live in the most dangerous places on Earth and devote themselves to helping the needy. The film has not been released on DVD yet, but I look forward to seeing it in AADL’s collection soon.