In view of the current refugee crisis, voestalpine is supporting the international aid organization Doctors Without Borders. In the following interview Margaretha Maleh, President of Doctors Without Borders Austria, talks about topics including current projects and the challenges posed by the refugee crisis.
Born in Tyrol, Maleh is an honorary member of the Management Board of Doctors Without Borders Austria and, since May 2015, its President. Margaretha Maleh is qualifed both as a psychotherapist for systematic family therapy and in social management, and looks back at over 20 years’ experience running her own psychotherapy practice. In the following interview she explains what the organization stands for, the countries in which it is active, and how it is helping in the current refugee crisis.
What is the purpose of the international aid organization Doctors Without Borders?
Doctors Without Borders is a medical and humanitarian aid organization founded in 1991. The Austrian branch was established in 1994, and its tasks include in the first instance project evaluation. The organization is funded purely through private donations, and its primary purpose is to offer professional help to those in need, irrespective of their ethnic, religious, or political backgrounds. We offer independent aid to people with no, or insufficient, access to medical services, whether as a consequence of natural disasters, armed conflict, food crises, epidemics, or the result of population displacements such as those we are currently experiencing around the conflict zone in Syria.
What type of projects do you run?
During 2015 we actively ran many different types of projects in 63 countries around the world. Eight projects alone were based in Iraq. Our largest projects at the moment are running in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and of course in the countries neighboring Syria. One of our most important projects at present is in Amman in Jordan. Here we are operating a hospital for plastic surgery which specializes in war wounds.
What aid are you providing during the current refugee crisis?
Since the start of the conflicts in the Middle East, particularly in Syria and Iraq, we have set up medical treatment centers as well as special surgery clinics, psychological care clinics, and mother and child centers in the refugee camps. In the reception centers in Italy, Greece, along the so-called Balkan route, and in Calais, France, we help by providing the basics such as tents, water, and of course basic medical care. In Austria our helpers support the Red Cross at the border crossings. With its three ships Doctors Without Borders has also saved around 18,000 people from drowning in the Mediterranean.
What are the major challenges involved here?
One thing should certainly be clear: the refugee crisis is not yet over, and winter will only bring a “short break”. And you shouldn’t forget that today more than 60 million people around the world have fled their homes. Doctors Without Borders is offering both medical and humanitarian aid in war-torn areas including Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and South Sudan. The aid organization is also running feeding centers for malnourished children in Niger and Chad, actively fighting malaria and cholera, undertaking vaccination programs, providing people with relief and water, and much more.
Global climate change and the increasing number of natural disasters—with all the attendant climate and economic refugees they generate—will also give rise to new challenges. And the emergence of new diseases and epidemics increasingly indicates the need for a global health care policy—here Ebola has shown us the limits of medical treatment options. That’s why Doctors Without Borders is also fighting for access to affordable medicine for everyone.
During the second part of the interview Margaretha Maleh talks about which operations she remembers in particular, and about her personal motivation for working with Doctors Without Borders. Publication date: Friday, February 12, 2016