Around 100 supporters marked 50 years of MSF in the CHL

On Wednesday, October 6, 2021

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The event was an opportunity to look back at the major challenges faced by MSF the eve of its 50th anniversary.

On his opening speech, the President of the Luxembourg section of MSF, Dr Guy Berchem, highlighted the growing demand for aid and the difficulties to access to populations due to hard negotiations with local authorities: “Delivering humanitarian aid involves constant threats, such as attacks, arrests and abductions. Our patients are the first victims, forced to pay the price of these many obstacles to accessing care. It is these challenges and the way in which MSF is constantly adapting its responses, that Dr Christou has to come to talk to us about this event”.

The first part of the event was devoted to the foundation of MSF (born in 1971 to relieve the suffering of people in danger, in complete independence), and its activity nowadays. Each year, MSF teams perform more than eight million interventions, ranging from essential vaccination campaigns to complex surgical procedures. Today MSF has reached the size of a multinational company with more than 64 000 employees working on the front lines of medical emergencies in more than 80 countries around the world.

The second part addressed the current challenges of the medical association, including the criminalisation of humanitarian aid, the migration crisis, climate change, racism, gender balance and regular crisis requiring MSF intervention such as Afghanistan or the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a great challenge for us. Our priorities always have been to meet the needs of those who need us the most, protect our staff worldwide, maintain our operations and meet all the other humanitarian needs”. Dr Christos Christou, International president of MSF

The conference left Dr Christou some room for some personal field experiences: “Last June, I spent 5 weeks on a medical mission in South Sudan, both the world’s youngest nation and also one with some of the worst health indicators. Violence didn’t change too much, but weapons were more present. I have noticed that the primary health system was completely collapsed. During the first two weeks, I had to operate on victims of violence - especially gunshot wounds - almost every night. Violence in South Sudan has had different phases, and MSF has witnessed – as well as experienced – several aspects of them.

“MSF has been there since 1983, and it’s pretty certain that we will stay longer. Whilst we keep looking at how to preserve our emergency identity in this context, we acknowledge that everyone is waiting for our input on capacity building.

Somebody recalled me once: ‘Close your eyes and think about what would happen if MSF didn't exist, and then you will understand what we do and why we are here’ . Dr Christos Christou, Internatioanl President of MSF

Dr Christou took questions from the audience and had the opportunity to calmly meet them at a walking dinner right after the conference. The conference was held on the framework of the events held by MSF Luxembourg to mark the 50th anniversary of the association.

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