BBC World: Doctors on the frontline

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21 January 2006:  Honduras The capital of Honduras, Tegucigalpa, is like an undeclared war zone.  There is an average of 16 assassinations every day.  Despite the presidential elections of 2002 the military are still very much in charge.  The country is little changed from the "heyday" of Central America's banana republic days.

There has been a growth in organised crime, fuelled by drug trafficking.  As ever, it is the children who are the frontline victims of this failing state.  Young teenagers are inducted into the gangs and girls into prostitution in order to survive. 

A year ago, MSF set up a medical and counselling centre for 400 children. While the BBC were filming one of the girls receiving counselling was murdered on the streets.

 

The cameras record the doctors, nurses and paramedics as they try to help patients in the disaster zones of the world. MSF is largely funded by public donations and the Nobel-prize winning organisation has a reputation for being brash and outspoken in a way its Red Cross, UN and other international counterparts would not contemplate. 

Since its founding in 1971 it has not shied away from mixing humanitarianism with criticisms of the authorities.  MSF for example was thrown out of Ethiopia in 1985 for whistle blowing on the misuse of aid and more recently in Rwanda for savaging the government on the state of the prisons.

More recently in keeping with this  tradition, MSF asked their donors to stop sending money for Asian Tsunami victims as they said they had collected all the funds it could manage effectively. 

Read more about the series on the BBC website

7 January 2006 2:  Haiti
MSF has been operating a trauma centre, St. Joseph's Hospital, in Port au Prince, since December 2004. A third of its patients are treated for gunshot wounds. Knife wounds are the second most common category.

A Haitian physician working for MSF says, "We have a lot of injuries caused by fragmentation bullets. Usually there is a small entry wound and a small exit wound. These bullets explode inside the abdomen of the patient and cause a lot of internal injuries. Fragmentary bullets are used by everyone." 

By the end of March 2005, the St Joseph's doctors had treated more than a thousand patients for bullet wounds. And the numbers are rising with about eight victims a day being treated. 

14 January 2006:  Sudan Peace between Khartoum and the SPLA in the south of Sudan has brought few benefits so far.  There are no roads, cattle and wife-stealing are rife and famine stalks. Civil conflict has been a barrier to development, including the provision of the most basic services. 

In this forbidding environment MSF operates a small hospital in Marial Lou which must cater for the needs of 300,000 people.  The biggest challenge here is operating feeding centres with only a third of the food aid the World Food Programme assesses this region requires. 

Doctors have noticed a rise in inter-tribal conflict, with food and competition for pasture the main causes.    

21 January 2006:  Honduras The capital of Honduras, Tegucigalpa, is like an undeclared war zone.  There is an average of 16 assassinations every day.  Despite the presidential elections of 2002 the military are still very much in charge.  The country is little changed from the "heyday" of Central America's banana republic days.

There has been a growth in organised crime, fuelled by drug trafficking.  As ever, it is the children who are the frontline victims of this failing state.  Young teenagers are inducted into the gangs and girls into prostitution in order to survive. 

A year ago, MSF set up a medical and counselling centre for 400 children.  While the BBC were filming one of the girls receiving counselling was murdered on the streets.    

28 January 2006:  Somalia Somalia is the only country that has no government in residence.  It's too dangerous for the Kenya-based government to return. Fourteen years of civil war and anarchy have led to the deaths of two million people.

Clan rivalry and warfare have destroyed every semblance of normality. Three quarters of the population has no access to even the most rudimentary health care - 1,600 women out of every 100,000 die in childbirth.  Most development agencies have quit.  MSF is one of the few to stay on. 

The BBC film comes from a small town called Dinsoor where the warlords have not yet eliminated traditional tribal governance and MSF is having a modicum of success in delivering health care by working through the tribal elders.