MSF dans les communes au Luxembourg

"Keeping a human-centered approach has helped me both in my work in MSF, and in the practice of general medicine"

On Monday, June 20, 2022

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A general practitioner, Bechara Ziade has a long experience with MSF, as medical director of the Luxembourg section from 1991 to 1995 and as President from 2011 to 2013.

He succeeds Dr Guy Berchem, who has been in this position since 2015, and who still remains on the Council of Administration which he joined in 2014.

Dr Ziade, you have been involved in MSF Luxembourg for many years. What inspired you to get involved in the first place, and what is your vision for the organisation in the coming months and years?

Actually, I have never signed up to become President. For me, fulfilling Médecins Sans Frontières’ mission is a team effort. We are all part of a big family, whether at board or office level, doing our best to move forward. We take humanitarian action and react to what is happening in the world, always guided by a human-centered approach. 

For me, it has always been a question of putting the patient in front of us and not forgetting him. And, when we are facing him, we feel inspired to do actions and give our energy, our time or our money.

It is important that the MSF office in Luxembourg is well consolidated, that there is a team spirit, joint work, that everyone does their part and that we all try to make things happen together. It is the only way forward for human beings across the world who are suffering, alone, abandoned, who have no roof over their heads or who have no water. 

Could you please tell us more about your experience as a General Practitioner? And how your experiences in the medical (and humanitarian / volunteering) field have shaped your vision for MSF Luxembourg?

In Lebanon, I have decided to study medicine in Beirut during the war. This choice was made on the basis of humanitarianism, as I did not want patients without means to be left behind. After my studies, I worked with refugees and I enrolled myself in Médecins Sans Frontières. Today, my goal and motivations remain intact.

For me, there is no difference between my work as a doctor and my work at MSF. A doctor’s role is the same both in the office and in the field. It is true that it’s different to treat patients with great needs on the field and patients covered by the Social Security in Luxembourg, as they have very different needs, but it is essential not to judge any person.

For me, every human being is different, and every need is always at the centre of my concern.

This human-centered approach has helped me a lot in my work in MSF, as well as in the practice of general medicine.

I remember returning to Luxembourg from Haiti in quite appalling conditions, where the mission was quite difficult because of the challenging conditions that local population was living in. Back at the office, a patient said to me: "Doctor, my nose has been running since yesterday". And I, faced with this situation, said to myself, "What do I do?

This experience gave me a reflection and a focus on my attitude, on my way of thinking, responding, reacting, and dealing with the patient with the means at my disposal and as best as possible in the existing situation.

How will this mandate differ from your previous mandate (as President between 2011-2013)? What has changed since then (the global and national situation, your priorities, etc.)?

Although I am usually in the course of action, when I step back and ask myself about my priorities in life, well-being and the human being have always been in top of my head. I am now taking the opportunity to give myself a little more time from a professional point of view to be available for fulfilling my humanitarian commitment at MSF.

This commitment to MSF is in line with this same desire to come to the bedside of the most vulnerable, wherever they may be.

Humanitarian sensitivity is a balm that can be applied to the world's suffering, and for that MSF has a much greater impact than our individual everyday actions.

Outside the personal sphere, what is different now is the situation on the field. Despite the war in Europe is taking a lot of energy, we must not just react to international politics, but rather to the needs of the human being worldwide. We must not forget the other wars, those people on the move and those in need, the existing malnutrition and the climate crisis, or all these other crises that we must respond to and be present.

Furthermore, our office in Luxembourg is currently consolidating the Luxembourg Operational Research unit of Médecins Sans Frontières (LuxOR) at the service of humanitarian medicine, and which is adding a plus to everyday humanitarian work.

We are trying to do our part as much as possible thanks to our donors, staff, researchers, professionals going out into the field, and also to the Board of Directors who give all their energy to respond as much as possible to all these needs.

Could you please tell us more about how you and your team plan to link the local Luxembourg dimension with major international issues?

Firstly, raising awareness of humanitarian action around the world and among the population in Luxembourg, even when they are not covered by the media, is key. This is very delicate work, that must respect the suffering human being at all levels. It's not just about putting up photos of children dying of hunger, but about getting the right information, the right messages, while maintaining this respect, protecting the data and maintaining this humanitarian dimension while respecting the donors and the people on the ground.

And this cannot be achieved without not only giving information to the general population and receiving its feedback, but also without the donors who are our modus vivendi for reacting and carrying out our actions.

Secondly, continue deploying LuxOR  in various international projects is other of our priorities to improve our efficiency and the care of patients. Since its launch in 2009, LuxOR has strengthened MSF and has helped it to become more professional in the right direction. Research is at the service of humanitarian aid. For example, we have standards for how to react in the field and research is key to improve them in order to respond better and in a more positive and adapted way. Besides, it is crucial to have research into the diseases that exist at the moment. Recently, for example, Covid-19 also took part in the research.

Thirdly, raising funds in Luxembourg that will directly finance international projects is among the essential actions of the Luxembourg office, not only to finance projects at the local level, but also at the international level.

The recent press release mentioned awareness-raising activities among Luxembourg's youth and plans to create jobs - could you please elaborate on this?

It is important to address young people today, because they are the adults of tomorrow, who will make decisions that will have an impact on the world. It is important to inform young people about what is happening elsewhere, to encourage them to become more aware and to develop in them the values of mutual aid and humanism.

We are thinking about different actions aimed specifically at young people; for example, we are currently working on partnerships with high schools and colleges. We believe that this also contributes to making them enlightened citizens, who can help us spread the word about MSF, become donors when they have the means to do so, or even join our teams if they discover a humanitarian streak and one day wish to go on a mission with MSF.

Following the crisis in Ukraine, there is a great wave of solidarity. Do you want to say to all these donors who are mobilising now, but who also mobilised before for other causes?

To these valuable people, I can only say villmols merci, although I feel that the word is often small compared to the effort they make. Of course, they don't need my thanks, but they're still there for us.

One day, the person we helped said to me: "It's not the fact that you helped me, but it's the fact that you thought of us, the fact that you are there, and we know that we are not alone”.

I think this message touches everyone.

It may be that person who ran for MSF during a solidarity challenge, or that child who gave something for MSF in a school. Each action has indeed a great impact.

A last word?

Sometimes people ask me if my commitment as volunteer member of the Board of Directors of MSF in Luxembourg is voluntary. Sometimes people don't see it, but it involves us a lot of our time, next to our work, our families, etc. But for me it is always a deep joy. I have a smile on my face, I feel that I am not alone, that we are all together and we are moving forward. We are all putting a small stone in a beautiful mosaic.

When I see a volunteer or a person working at the office, I would like to say: "Keep it up. You can't imagine the impact it has at international, global and planetary level. You are doing a huge job. Every euro that comes in, every effort, every little action is very important for us and for all humanity.”

Furthermore, I would like to extend a big thank you to our donors and to everyone who thinks about doing something for humanity.