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The challenges MSF faces in supporting the DRC Ebola response

Médecins Sans Frontières speaks with an employee at an isolation facility willing to have suspected Ebola cases at Mbandaka General Hospital in Mbandaka, Democratic Republic of Congo. Photo by: REUTERS / Kenny Katombe

CANBERRA – The response to an epidemic begins within the community, according to Dr. Joanne Liu, international president of Doctors without Borders. But with the current Ebola outbreak against the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liu said that the Devex communities have been left behind, so the response has not been successful.

"The community is confused," she said. "They said we are coming, driving too fast on the street and coming in space suits. Then we take their loved ones who they may never see again. They don't understand what's going on. & # 39;

"Humanitarian aid will only be tolerated if it serves a political agenda of nations – otherwise it will be attacked."

– Dr. Joanne Liu, international president, MSF

It is exacerbated, Liu said, after decades of DRC being ignored by the world, while malaria and pneumonia still regularly claim lives.

"And then comes Ebola – it is an additional problem among many others. But this makes it very difficult for the community to understand why – after many setbacks over decades – the world suddenly comes to those who want to contain Ebola."

As a keynote speaker at the World Association for Disaster and Emergency Medicine congress on disaster and emergency medicine held in Brisbane, Australia, from 7-10 May, Liu mentioned the Ebola crisis when discussing the future of emergency relief. Growing security thinking in response to humanitarian crises, she said, risked disrupting response and management and creating greater divisions with communities in need of support.

Fight against security thinking

"We are in a situation where countries only respond and mobilize when they feel that their country is at stake," said Liu, who shares her thoughts on humanitarian response risks, which she fears they will to grow.

"We saw this in 2014 and 2015 with the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Only when people started returning to their home country in the United States or Europe were sick did it pay attention – Ebola knocked on their door."

Security thinking, she said, is now prominent in the decision to respond to crises. Aside from Ebola, Liu said this is also seen in the response to the needs of migrants and refugees with many nations who only see this as a "crisis" when refugees appear at their borders – even though it was a crisis long before.

"With security thinking, people will always respond late," Liu said. "Instead of reacting in time, they will instead wait until they feel threatened."

And it also influences the government's perception of humanitarian aid and its suppliers.

"Somehow humanitarian aid will only be tolerated if it serves a political agenda of nations – otherwise it will be attacked."

Preparing for the future

The theme of the WADEM congress was the future of emergency medicine – and Liu explained to Devex that security thinking is one of the greatest challenges MSF can face, which can affect its ability to respond to humanitarian crises those who need help.

Along with responding to hotspot emergencies, including Ebola, refugees and migrants will continue to be a focus in shifting governments worldwide, away from security thinking.

"This will remain a challenge for us because it has consequences everywhere," said Liu. "We hardened a treatise on refugees and migrants and what we have been confronted with in recent years is criminalizing migrants and refugees and people who provide assistance to refugees.

"This happened to us in Gibraltar last year when our boat was stripped of its flag. This happened twice in a row and we had to stop our search and rescue in the Mediterranean."

MSF is also facing greater difficulties in approaching the population due to security issues. Syria, Yemen and West Africa are among these regional challenges.

"People don't have access to medication – we've been very frank about this," Liu said.

And it is starting to adapt to climate change – especially in the Pacific Ocean, knowing that this is also an area that many governments will not prepare for until it is officially declared a crisis.

"When tackling security thinking, it is important that we understand that people are afraid, but we should not be guided by it – fear is a good servant but a bad master, and we must resist it," Liu said. "If we don't do that, we'll always be late."

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