IS MEDECINS SANS FRONTIERES SUPERSEDING THE HUMANITARIAN AGENCIES OF THE UNITED NATIONS ?
By CAMERON DUODU
During the distressing Ebola crisis in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, which, thankfully, is now drawing to a close, one organisation stood out distinctly amongst other organisations and purveyed light and vigour, while others remained “blind” and “indolent”.
It was very pathetic indeed that blindness and confusion should exist in such bodies, especially those set up by the UN precisely to protect humans when natural or deliberately-caused calamities afflict the population of the planet. For it is to them that the world turned for salvation, and they mostly looked away, paralysed by internal politics or global concerns imposed upon them by fear of the powers whose financial clout made it unwise to cross them.
The organisation that fearlessly stood out to be counted was Medecins San Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders). Whilst the rich and powerful nations of the world, especially the United States, Britain and France, twiddled their thumbs, MSF sent doctors and health personnel right inside the danger spots. MSF personnel risked their own lives to save the victims of Ebola. Inspired by the example of MSF, medical personnel working in sundry establishments — including the fairly inflexible medical institutions of the rich countries — volunteered to go and help. Some fell ill with Ebola and dramatised the dangers associated with Ebola to the whole world. These were brave people, and they and the local personnel they worked with — some of whom perished — deserve the gratitude of the entire human race.
Meanwhile, the MSF would, I think, normally have saved lives and kept quiet. But the problem it faced in the field was so gargantuan that it went to the UN and spoke the truth to the world’s powers (in so many words) that unless they moved in very fast indeed, they would witness a calamity of such proportions as would brand them for ever as callous, unfeeling human beings. Not only that — by remaining unconcerned, their own populations would become angry with them, for in the modern world, no country can be an “island, entire unto itself”. Ebola would arrive in London, Berlin, Washington and Paris, if …..! Sure enough, panic soon spread throughout the world, as single cases became reported around the world and gruesome television pictures of the Martian-like Ebola fighters courting death on the front-lines of the disease, did the rest.
The USA, Britain and France – all of which have established special medical units that are trained to fight the hazards that could be unleashed on humans by chemical and nuclear warfare, got their act together at last and sent well-equipped teams to the three countries being devastated by Ebola.
Why did they wait for so long? Ask me!
I suppose that if the populations of these rich Western countries not been alarmed by the possibility of travellers arriving on their shores with Ebola, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia would by now have bowed the knee to Ebola. What about the World Health Organisation (WHO) you ask? Isn’t it the body that should have forcefully conveyed the urgency of the situation to the rich and powerful nations? Why did it appear so ineffectual at the beginning of the crisis?
We cannot answer those questions now, but whistle-blowers do exist and are multiplying by the day.. People of good conscience are beginning to evaluate the responses with which the crisis was greeted and will make their findings known — mark my words. .
The only organisation that does not need to evaluate its own responses is the MSF. But I believe it will carry out the most thorough introspection of all. The reason is that the MSF – it appears to me – has told itself that it dares not fail. It knows that quite often, it is the last stand between humanity and total disaster.
I have only once met an MSF doctor – and that was by accident. I was sitting in a dentist’s chair of all places, in London, and to make conversation, the dentist casually asked me where I came from. When I told him, the conversation shifted to Africa and he then told me – quite casually – that he had spent a year or two in the Southern Sudan, as an MSF volunteer, looking after the teeth of the guerrilla fighters of the Sudan People’s Liberation Front (SPLA).
What? This nice young man with a good life in front of him had gone and braved the Sudan Government’s possible murderous anger by providing medical assistance to guerrillas fighting it in the bush? “Respect!” I said to myself.
That dentist’s quiet revelation of concealed heroism has been in my mind a lot during the Ebola crisis. MSF doctors, nurses and other para-medics just got up and went to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia as if it was second nature to them – without fanfare and ahead of everyone else.
And now, even before Ebola has been completely conquered, MSF, far from recovering from the mental and physical exhaustion created by Ebola, is at the forefront of yet another major humanitarian effort: it is launching a programme to rescue some of the thousands of migrants thrown into the cruel sea to drown, by human traffickers. Can you imagine the odium it will attract to itself as it implicitly puts the powerful governments of Europe, which are deliberately allowing would-be migrants to drown in the Mediterranean Sea, in the dock before their own populations and the peoples of the world?
An announcement by the MSF says simply:
QUOTE: “Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) will launch a joint search, rescue and medical aid operation in the central Mediterranean between Africa and Europe…. from May to October, when thousands of people are expected to risk their lives attempting to reach safe havens in Europe.
“Last year  was the deadliest on record for people crossing the Mediterranean; more than 3,400 people died trying to reach Europe. [In one disaster last month alone, 800 would-be migrants drowned from one single boat.] This year  the death toll is predicted to be even higher, as even less assistance is available to boats in distress.
“The Italian navy’s search and rescue operation was discontinued in November 2014 due to a lack of funding from European governments. Europe has turned its back on people fleeing some of the worst humanitarian crises of our time. The decision to close doors and build fences [around Europe] means that men, women and children are forced to risk their lives and take a desperate journey across the sea. Ignoring this situation will not make it go away.” UNQUOTE
It is to be hoped that just as in the case of Ebola, the ability of MSF to cut through cant and woolly thinking and get down to the ugly facts on the ground, will shame Europe into resuming and improving Europe’s life-saving operations in the Mediterranean. An awareness needs to be created in Europe that imprisonment and neglect are not what should meet the migrants who manage, against great odds, to escape from death in the sea.
That MSF is being driven by the situation to even consider taking to the sea should tell European governments and their people that MSF is primarily, a medical organisation, not one intended to engage in rescuing people abandoned to drown in the cruel sea. But the MSF is intelligent enough not to distinguish one cause of death from another.
The subscript to the horrendous story, which even the MSF won’t dare to tell Europe because it is political dynamite, but which we can, is this: history teaches us that European peoples and people of European ancestry have been the harbingers of many atrocious and brutal deaths of indigenous people in their own countries as well as under conditions of slavery in plantations a whole world away from their homes.
Worse, Europe has arrogantly bequeathed to peoples it considered inferior, systems of government built on thievery and plunder — in their former “colonial” countries — that have brought about horrendous and lasting social and economic inequities, as adopted and practised by the alien governmental systems that Europe left behind. Capitalist establishments, allied to what Frantz Fanon called “the apes” of the masked colonisers now departed, are throttling the life out of millions of people. But these systems cannot be changed without bloodshed, and even where the people are not afraid of bloodshed, they lack the means to fight the armies and police forces created by the departing colonisers, and which have been inordinately strengthened by the thieves in power.
Where the bequeathed armed forces have not grown to become a force unto themselves, stealing the people’s money with abandon, they are the loyal allies of the civilian oppressors trained in London, Paris and Washington, who share their loot with armed elements, in the hope that they can be used to defend their stolen largesse.
These systems and practices have yielded unexpected consequences in many former colonies. In some countries, especially the Middle East, the larceny has reached such proportions that civil war is the new “normal”. And the victims, both of civil war and economic destitution, are arriving by the boatload, on Europe’s doorsteps. And, of course, affluent Europe does not want to know. For, indeed, Europe only knows how to exploit other people”s wealth and enjoy it — other people’s oil; other people’s coffee, other people’s cocoa, other people’s iron, gold, diamonds, tin, aluminium, et etcetera!
There are people in Europe who know these facts. And they should work together to block Europe’s callous escape route from an acceptance of the consequences of its centuries of selfishness and brutality in Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. These people should — as in the days of olden Europe — arouse the consciences of Europe’s populace and get them to force their governments to accept the reality of the evil they have caused in the world. No longer should Europe be allowed — as the King of Belgium on the independence day of the Congo Democratic Republic on 1 June 1960 — to congratulate itself on the “civilising” acts it had carried out by slaughtering millions of people who had done it no harm, save to refuse to be its slaves.
The hypocrisy of European Governments should be exposed. Who kept the billions of dollars stolen from Nigeria by the dictator, Sani Abacha’s billions safe for himself and his family? European banks. Mobutu, Nguema, Bongo, Nguesso — who facilitates their kleptocracy? Go to Switzerland and ask! For these days, the Swiss are talking.
The MSF cannot say any of these things. But by quietly tearing off the mask and showing the world what Europe’s policies mean — in leaving thousands of poor refugees and economic migrants to find a watery grave in the Mediterranean — it will be is saying it with action, not words.
MSF is biting a lot more than is easily chewed. And so it needs support. Humanitarian organisations across Europe and around the world, should mobilise their intellectual and financial resources to flock behind MSF’s new efforts. Europe needs to be shamed into doing its duty by the “wretched of the earth”. For many, if not all, have been driven across the Sahara into unsafe, leaky boats, by Europe’s profit-thirsty companies, and their surrogate pillagers who wear the brown skins of Africans and Middle Easterners, but employ techniques evolved by “white brains”, when it comes to stealing the wealth of “poor” developing countries.