Andre is Head of Programmes at Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), an organisation that offers aid to people in conflict areas.
He has worked in areas of conflict in countries all around the world since 2006. For example, he has worked in South Sudan, Yemen, Syria, Haiti, and the Central African Republic.
As all charities have limited resources, is it worth spending so much money on aid for Syria when there is a huge chance it will be demolished, would it be better to spend it elsewhere where charities money will be better utilised?
By Chronicyouth, Malcolm Arnold Academy
Médecins Sans Frontières/ Doctors Without Borders provides healthcare to people wherever they are in the world based on who needs our care the most.
It is without doubt that people living in Syria are in one of the most desperate situations in the world right now. Their country has been at war for almost six years and millions of people are still trapped inside the country. Many face the daily terror of fighting or bombing and threats of being recruited into the army. Others have little food and may have lost their homes. On top of this, it is incredibly difficult to see a doctor or get hold of medicine. People who are hungry or injured from fighting may not have anywhere to go to seek help.
You’re right that many of Médecins Sans Frontières’ hospitals and doctors have been attacked in Syria. But we can’t use this as a reason to give up trying to help the millions of people that are in desperate need of our help.
Having said this, we are constantly changing the way we work in conflict areas to make sure we’re working in a way that is as safe and as efficient as possible. For example, when our hospitals were bombed, we moved our hospitals underground. When our staff were attacked, we restricted where our staff could travel and made sure they were also kept safe underground.
We also do as much work as we can from outside the country. We use technology to provide advice and training for people that are inside. We are calling on people on all sides of the war to let Syrians who have serious and urgent health problems to cross the border. We want to get these people out of Syria and into our hospital in neighboring Jordan. There, we can carry out any surgery or major operations an injured person might need in a place that is safe for both our patients and staff.
We know that working in Syria is not risk-free but we absolutely think it is worth spending our money trying to help the people there however we can. In fact, we wouldn’t be doing justice to the reason we exist as an organisation or to the very generous people that give us money if we did not try to get medical care to people in Syria.
Why do you help by sending aid not military assistants? St Peter’s Primary School
Médecins Sans Frontières/ Doctors Without Borders is neutral, impartial and provides medical aid around the world. We do this because we believe everyone deserves medical care, no matter your age, what country you live in or what side of a war you’re fighting on.
A lot of the countries that Médecins Sans Frontières works in are at war, such as in Syria. The fighting makes it difficult to deliver medicines to the country, roads might be blocked by soldiers, hospitals might have been bombed and doctors might have been killed in the fighting. In these instances, MSF is able to build ‘pop-up’ hospitals in tents, increase the number of medical staff in a country at short notice and help get medicine to those who need it.
Not only do countries at war need medical aid, but MSF can do these things precisely because we are an independent organisation, we never get involved in military assistance on either side of a war.
People, governments and rebel groups around the world know we are purely a medical organisation so they trust us to care for people no matter who or where they are. This reputation is very important as it allows us to reach the people who need us most.
How do you help people without getting bombed?
Gowry5, Grace Academy Coventry
This is a really good question because the truth – whilst it is upsetting – is that we don’t manage to help people without being bombed. MSF projects have been bombed lots of times over the past few years, particularly in Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen.
Hospitals, patients, and health workers should never be bombed. It is a war crime under international humanitarian law. When attacks happen we speak out against them strongly.
MSF is impartial – we will treat anyone according to what their medical needs are, no matter what side of a war they are on. No one is allowed to bring weapons into our hospitals.
We do what we can to make sure we are not bombed by mistake, this is an excuse that is sometimes given by those who attack hospitals. For example, we make sure that the buildings we use are clearly marked, and we usually share their exact GPS coordinates with armies. In other cases, we’ve moved our hospitals underground to protect them.
We take the security of our patients and staff very seriously. Our teams are always thinking about whether or not it is safe for us to work in certain areas, making decisions based on the information that we have.
We have sometimes stopped working in countries after deciding that they are too dangerous, whether that comes from our projects being bombed or for other security reasons. But often we continue to work in these places because that is where the people who need us most are.
How come you just give things to them support them in the country, when you can just take them out of the country for good to stop them from being at risk for gun shot?
Tasmanian Devil, Grace Academy Coventry
Even if we might like to, MSF is a medical organisation which doesn’t have the right to move everyone who is in danger into a different country that would be safer.
Governments decide whether or not to let people in to the countries they lead. People have to get to safer countries and then ask for the right to live in them, which is called ‘claiming asylum’.
There are nearly 60 million people in the world who have fled their homes. MSF tries to provide them with some support along the way. We build hospitals in refugee camps, we help women give birth, we vaccinate children and we provide access to safe drinking water. We also run boats in the Mediterranean that rescue people from drowning.
The routes that people have to take to get to safer countries can be very dangerous and take a long time – it can take months to travel from Syria to Europe. MSF speaks out about this and calls on governments to do more to make sure people can travel safely.
Sometimes people want to stay in their own countries even if there is a risk of getting shot – perhaps because that’s where their families and friends are. It can also be very expensive to travel to a safer country, and many people can’t afford to pay.
So, MSF will also continue to provide free medical care to people who need it the most in places where there are wars and conflicts like Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen.
Are there a lot of risks going into Syria? Nermal45, St Peter’s Primary School
The Syrian conflict has affected peoples’ daily lives and parts of the country are very dangerous. People are trapped there because fighters and bombings make it very difficult to flee.
Médecins Sans Frontières is a charity which gives medical care to those who need it the most. This can be very difficult to do in places where hospitals are bombed and are then forced to close.
The Syrian government has also refused to let us into the areas which they control, this makes it very hard for us to help people who are suffering in places like East Aleppo.
These risks make it hard to deliver medical care, but we also know that these are the people that need it the most, so there are many things that we are able to do. For example, we have been supporting Syrian doctors who are working in the country, and using technology like Skype to keep in contact with medics there. We have also set up clinics across the border in Jordan for people who have fled their homes.