One of our main priorities at Doctors of the World is to strengthen access to healthcare for communities living in conflict zones, or those affected by crises such as natural disasters. In emergency situations such as these, our aims are to save lives, alleviate suffering, and protect people’s fundamental right to healthcare.
When an emergency happens, we deploy rapid response teams to address urgent medical needs. Each emergency context is different, and we’ve worked in a variety of settings, including the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, the Syrian and Yemeni civil wars, and drought conditions in Somalia, Nigeria and Kenya to prevent the outbreak of famine.
In the aftermath of a disaster, we also work to rebuild and strengthen health infrastructures in a way that will have a lasting impact on the community. We partner with local organizations to ensure that our work is sustainable and the local community is better equipped to cope with future emergencies.
Due to climate change, natural disasters are occurring with increasing frequency and intensity. Since 2008, it is estimated that 227.6 million people have been displaced by a natural disaster. A natural disaster can be anything from a devastating earthquake or a powerful hurricane to a famine brought on by extreme drought conditions.
In the US alone, natural disasters cost one billion dollars in 2017. These events can destroy a country’s infrastructure, displace communities from their homes and severely undermine stability and security. Disasters also exacerbate poverty. Those living in precarious conditions prior to the event are especially vulnerable in the aftermath of a disaster.
The human rights of civilians in conflict zones are regularly violated or disregarded by warring groups, often with devastating consequences. This year, thousands of people have died in war zones such as Syria and Yemen, and millions have been forced to flee their homes in search of safety in neighboring countries or Europe.
When a country is at war, everyday life breaks down. Health professionals flee, making access to reliable healthcare extremely difficult for local communities. Deliberate attacks on health facilities have also reached unprecedented levels, with 338 centers attacked in Syria alone in 2016.
While countries experiencing instability may not officially be at war, instability can greatly disrupt a country’s public infrastructure – including health services. Instability can be caused by a variety of factors, such as the Boko Haram terrorist insurgency in Nigeria, Russia’s ongoing annexation of eastern Ukraine or ethnic tensions in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Amidst political uncertainty and insecurity, our teams work to ensure access to medical care for local communities and to bridge gaps in countries’ health infrastructures. This is vital in regions where access to healthcare is sporadic, especially in rural areas, where we often work to connect remote communities to healthcare services that were previously inaccessible.