In his capacity as a board member of MSF / Doctors Without Borders USA, on June 14 Nabil Al-Tikriti co-organized, moderated, and led discussion during a plenary session entitled “Health Care Under Fire” during the 2013 MSF USA General Assembly in New York City. During this session, participants set out to “share some of MSF’s direct field experiences of the risks and dangers associated with healthcare delivery in insecure contexts, and, most importantly, to reflect on the impact such violence has on the disruption of medical services.” The forum served to launch a fresh initiative within the MSF movement entitled “Medical Care Under Fire” designed to engage with this issue globally. The new initiative follows a similar initiative launched by the International Committee of the Red Cross in 2011, and is partially in cooperation with that colleague agency.
Session panelists included: Mark Steinbeck (Medical Advisor and Delegate for ICRC at its Regional Delegation in Washington, DC), Joe Amon (Director, Health and Human Rights Division, Human Rights Watch), Francoise Duroch (Manager, Medical Care Under Fire project, MSF International), and Jason Cone (Director of Communications, MSF USA).
The session description was as follows: “Violence or the threat of violence against patients, health care personnel and health care structures is increasingly recognized as a potential barrier to our ability to deliver quality health care in highly unstable contexts. Our staff or our patients may be the direct victims of these attacks, but the indirect victims are all the people and communities who, as a consequence of these attacks, can no longer access health services. Health care can be suspended, withdrawn, or rendered impossible by violent events. Wounded and sick people can be denied effective health care when hospitals are damaged by explosive weapons or violated by fighters, when ambulances are hijacked and when health-care personnel are threatened, kidnapped, injured or killed…”
For an extended interview on this issue by Francoise Duroch, see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyBNafxzF7w&feature=share
Prior to leading this session, Prof. Al-Tikriti served for several weeks this spring as Deputy Head of Mission for MSF France’s Syria relief operations, which entailed three brief visits into the conflict region. At this point, he grappled firsthand with many of the issues intended to be addressed by MSF’s new initiative in this direction.