The Organization for World Peace is proud to present its inaugural Prize for Peace Promotion to Doctors Without Borders. The prize recognizes an organization which over the past year has had a prominent role in promoting peace and reducing the harm caused by international conflict. The Organization for World Peace hopes that this award will spread awareness of the positive impact that organizations can have in promoting a more peaceful world and encourage others to act.
Doctors Without Borders, or Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), was founded in 1971 as a private institution comprised mainly of doctors and health care professionals dedicated to providing medical care to those in need across the world. MSF was founded on and continues to respect principles of neutrality, impartiality, professional ethics, and the provision of aid to those in need regardless of race, nationality, gender, religion, or political views. The organization also follows the principle of témoignage, or “bearing witness,” guided by a desire to protect human rights, guard life, and alleviate suffering through speaking out. To realize this vision, MSF provides emergency responses to natural disasters and man-made crises, access to healthcare, and long-term care through treatment clinics. Combined with advocacy campaigns, these medical actions form the core of MSF’s operations.
MSF has exemplified its guiding principles over the past year, operating in over 70 countries, including in many of the world’s most tragic conflicts. Although MSF has been involved in crises ranging from the December 2018 tsunami in Indonesia to the Burundian refugee crises in Tanzania, the Organization for World Peace presents its’ Prize for Peace Promotion to MSF to highlight the organization’s work in two of the world’s deadliest conflicts: Yemen and Syria.
The conflict in Yemen, beginning in 2015, has devastated the civilian population, leading to the collapse of critical civilian infrastructures, including the public health system. Furthermore, a 2015 blockade by the Saudi-coalition restricted imports, including medicine, and made access to healthcare increasingly difficult. With the damaged economy, lack of supplies, and damage to hospitals, many Yemeni healthcare workers have not been paid in years, causing them to leave the health sector. A cholera outbreak in 2017 further worsened health outlooks for an already vulnerable population.
In response to the extensive problems faced by the Yemeni population, MSF began operating facilities across Yemen, reporting that by the end of 2017 it had treated over 101,000 people for cholera and provided 19,700 surgeries. Throughout Yemen, MSF has also opened emergency surgery treatment facilities, centers for the treatment of cholera and provided general healthcare to the population. The organization’s operations in Yemen are particularly laudable given the targeting of medical facilities in the country. In June 2018, a Saudi-led coalition airstrike hit an MSF cholera treatment facility, severely damaging the clinic. Luckily, no one was injured. In November 2018, MSF shut down its treatment facility in Ad Dhale in southern Yemen, following multiple attacks on MSF staff housing in the area and multiple threats targeting staff and patients.
Despite the targeting of medical facilities and other dangers, MSF continues to operate in Yemen, providing life-saving medical care and advocating for a robust international response to the plight of Yemeni civilians caught in the devastation of war. MSF’s groundwork in Yemen promotes peace, human rights, and the alleviation of suffering.
MSF also operates in Syria, which has been in a devastating civil war since 2011. Since the beginning of the conflict, MSF has supported existing medical facilities on the ground and from afar, providing nearly 650,000 outpatient consultations and 10,000 surgical interventions by the end of 2017. The war in Syria entered its seventh year in 2018, resulting in the destruction of the country’s health system and massive displacement both within and outside of Syria. Common illnesses and treatable health problems are rampant, and MSF works to provide basic healthcare to a devastated population.
As in Yemen, the organization’s operations are threatened by the conflict. MSF-supported facilities have been struck on at least 12 separate occasions, and MSF’s ability to operate in Syria is severely limited by the Syrian government’s refusal to grant work authorization and the kidnapping of MSF workers by the Islamic State. Nevertheless, MSF continues to work on the ground in Syria where it can, running clinics, deploying mobile teams and maintaining support for Syrian facilities from neighboring countries when it cannot get access. MSF operated facilities in and around Raqqa both during and after the 2017 offensive to take the city from the Islamic State, admitting hundreds of patients for surgery.
In addition to medical care, as in Yemen, MSF advocates on behalf of the Syrian people. MSF has spoken out about the siege of Aleppo and Eastern Ghouta, among others, and has criticized the failure of international humanitarian responses to the crisis. In Yemen and Syria, MSF is both a provider of life-saving medical intervention and an advocate for peace and humanitarian response.
MSF’s operations in Yemen and Syria, though admirable, are only a small part of their global operations. With operations ranging from the provision of emergency medical care to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to mental health care in Chechnya, MSF implements its mission of health services for all and témoignage across the globe, working to promote peace and alleviate human suffering caused by natural disasters, crises, and international conflicts. For both its groundwork and advocacy, the Organization for World Peace believes that MSF represents an organization that promotes peace throughout the world. The Organization for World Peace is proud to present its inaugural Prize for Peace Promotion to Doctors Without Borders.
If you would like to find out more about the work of Doctors Without Borders, please visit their website. If you wish to help them continue to promote peace across the globe, you can donate to Doctors Without Borders, OR if you wish to work with Doctors Without Borders, you can find out more here.
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