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Sriram Karri in conversation with Martin Sloot of MSF India at Taj Banjara
Sriram Karri in conversation with Martin Sloot of MSF India at Taj Banjara

MSF Dares to Volunteer Free Medical Services in Conflict Zones, Seeks People’s Support

Service to mankind is service to God. But serving people may endanger your own life, especially when you are doing it in conflict zones such as Chhattisgarh and Kashmir in India or Congo and Somalia in Africa.

Medecins Sans Frontierers (MSF) or Doctors without Borders, a network of volunteers primarily from medical background, dares to volunteer free medical services even in conflict zones.

Despite “security threat” at times, we deliver free medical care for the sake of humanity, said MSF India general director Martin Sloot during a conversation with novelist Sriram Karri at an event in Taj Banjara, Hyderabad on Saturday evening.

“Medical care is a human right, and it should be given to everyone”, noted Martin while exchanging his ideas about doctor as a thought beyond borders in the event ‘What it takes to Save a Life: The MSF Experience’.

Through the event, which was organized by Hyde Park in collaboration with local chapter of Rotary Club, MSF aimed to bring awareness about the need to offer free basic medical services as a fundamental right and recruit volunteers.

When asked about volunteering opportunities for people from non-medical background in MSF, Martin said the organization not only needs people from medical background but also from law, translation, fund raising, and communication.

Martin offered open opportunity for people to be part of MSF, while noting that the selection process in MSF is “strict” and any opportunity inherently poses some “risk” as MSF clinics are not normal clinics in safe zones.

However, he noted that MSF is apolitical and neutral organization that avoids funds from governments, tobacco and arms industries. A bullet proof jacket may not save you in conflict zones, but a simple T-shirt with “MSF” or its logo saved our volunteers in the past, he added.

As part of a group from St. Francis College for Women that volunteered for the event, Shivani and Akhila said they were following the work of MSF for a few years, and came to know about MSF event in Hyderabad through word of mouth.

“Being students of psychology we were more than happy to volunteer for an organization that deals with humanitarian causes,” they said with broad smiles on their faces.

A similar program had been conducted as “MSF Fest” in Bengaluru in November last year, said MSF volunteer Pallav. The organization is mulling to organize a program in All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), in addition to another program slated for July this year in Delhi.

A participant from the audience asked how medical practitioners at MSF working internationally when medical practice requires country specific licenses. Martin responded, “We respect universal medical ethics, but at the same time it is a limitation for us as doctors.”

MSF also has clinics in India. As a host of the event, Karri enquired about why there’s a need to work in India, a peaceful democratic country, Martin said access to basic medical services in rural areas is difficult.

“We do proper assessment, work with local authorities, and attend to medical needs of people in areas where medical facilities are just basic,” explained Martin.

Representing Rotary Club, Northern Hyderabad as its president Dr. Gayathri expressed her happiness in collaborating with Hyde Park for the event.

“Rotary believes in what MSF is doing, said Dr. Gayathri while adding that it was a privilege to work with the Indian chapter of MSF.

About SM Fasiullah

A writer by choice, learner by nature, and social servant by passion. "Woods are lovely, dark and deep; But I have promises to keep; Miles to go before I sleep; Miles to go before I sleep" - Robert Frost

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