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Topic – Doctors Without Borders

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Doctors Without Borders

In 1971, Raymond Borel and Philippe Bernier were French journalists working for a medical magazine. They saw a need for a group of doctors that could travel anywhere in the world to help people who were suffering from disease, famine, or injuries from war. Borel and Bernier put out a call for volunteers.

By December 1971, a group of 300 volunteers—including doctors, nurses, and others who wanted to help—created Médecins Sans Frontières, which translates as Doctors Without Borders in English.

Why the Name “Doctors Without Borders”?

A border is a line that separates two countries. When two neighbouring countries are fighting, doctors and other medical workers may not be allowed to cross the border between the countries to help people on the other side. Governments outside the two countries may take sides in a war, wanting to support one country but not the other. The idea behind Doctors Without Borders is to provide medical care wherever it is needed, in any country. What matters to Doctors Without Borders is people who are suffering, not what country the people live in.

A border between countries—which appears as a line on a map—separates the people in the two countries. There are other kinds of borders that separate people, and these borders do not appear on maps. People can separate themselves into groups based on their race, religion, political beliefs, or gender. Borders between these groups may be invisible, but they can still separate people. For example, people of one race or religion may not wish to help people who belong to a different race or religion. Doctors Without Borders provides help to anyone who needs it, no matter what group the person belongs to.

The Early Years

In 1972, almost exactly a year after Doctors Without Borders was created, the organization conducted its first mission—helping earthquake victims in Nicaragua. Two years later, the organization helped people in Honduras after a powerful hurricane. In 1975, Doctors Without Borders began helping Cambodians who were fleeing their country to escape a cruel leader.

Any new organization learns lessons along the way. From its early missions, Doctors Without Borders learned important lessons about such things as how to better prepare for a mission and how to make sure its workers always have access to all the supplies they need.

Doctors Without Borders Today

Today, over 50 000 people from more than 150 countries work with Doctors Without Borders. The organization has offices in over two dozen countries, including Canada, and has treated more than 100 million patients. In recognition of their work, Doctors Without Borders was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999.

While the organization has grown over time, it still holds the same values as when it started:

• To provide medical aid in the places where people need it most

• To be independent, and not be influenced by the views of governments

• To remain neutral by not taking sides in a conflict situation

• To be impartial by not favouring one group of people over another

Doctors Without Borders in Canada

The Canadian offices of Doctors Without Borders are located in Toronto and Montreal. Activities of the Canadian offices include:

• recruiting medical professionals and others to work on missions around the world

• making Canadians aware of the difficult situations in which the organization is helping

• raising money to support missions.

In 2018, Canadians donated over $60 million to support Doctors Without Borders.


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