News on international humanitarian crises tends to get just a few lines or less than one-minute of coverage on radio and TV. Currently, civilians are on the run from conflict in countries like Pakistan, Sudan, and Colombia. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) works in many of these settings, and operates in more than 60 countries worldwide, often providing the only health care available.
The questions I get most often from audiences when I make presentations are not so much about the geopolitics of a crisis. Instead, people most want to know about how everyday life is lived in these extreme settings. What is happening behind the scenes of these headlines? What are the day-to-day rewards and frustrations of being far from home and working in places that are dangerous, without bare necessities like hot water and 24-hour electricity, in clinics and hospitals that are makeshift tents or facilities without adequate and appropriate equipment and medicines? Where do the aid workers live? What do you do in your spare time, if you have any? Do you get along as a team?
In "Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders," independent documentary filmmakers were given unprecedented access to MSF's field projects in post-conflict Liberia and the war zone of the Congo. It shows the medical and personal challenges of four MSF doctors in intimate settings with unvarnished details.
Dr. Tom Krueger, a Tennessee surgeon, closes his medical practice after 20 years to serve in a West African hospital. It is his first assignment with MSF, and his decision to work overseas is a step into the unknown. At the other extreme is Dr. Chris Brasher, an Australian with a pierced brow who has been in MSF for nine consecutive years, which has left him a caring, but jaded pragmatist. This is his final assignment before trying to re-enter normal life in his adopted hometown of Paris. Answers to some of those questions you have for any aid worker about their field experience are found in the film. Other questions may never be resolved; and new ones may not have easy answers.
On Monday, December 14, you can participate in the panel discussion, which is moderated by Elizabeth Vargas of ABC News 20/20. Joining the panel will be Sebastian Junger, author of "The Perfect Storm" and contributing editor of Vanity Fair who will speak about his experience documenting the work of aid workers in conflict situations and Dr. Brasher, Dr. Krueger, and Sophie Delaunay from Doctors Without Borders.
I was privileged to have worked with MSF for ten years, and I've recently returned to a happily "normal" life. In that decade, I've been packed into cargo planes, lived in rebel-held areas, and worked in poorly supplied hospitals. I've had teammates who made me furious, and others whom I befriended as we worked together under duress. It is hard to describe the experiences of that time in my life, and no single MSF project is like any other, but this film opens a window on a usually inaccessible world. Join us on December 14th in one of 444 cinemas in 47 states and take a look.
You can purchase tickets directly on Fathom Events.
And learn more about the event from Doctors Without Borders.