In view of the current refugee crisis, voestalpine is supporting the international aid organization Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF). In the following interview Franz Luef, Advocacy & Humanitarian Affairs Representative for MSF Austria, talks about topics including his career to date and his missions abroad.
Born in Styria, Luef has been a member of MSF since 2003, working in many different countries and in a variety of positions on their behalf. After technical high school, where he specialized in control and control engineering, Franz Luef went on to graduate with a degree in International Economics & Business Studies (finance & controlling). The 42-year old has been active as the Advocacy & Humanitarian Affairs Representative for MSF in Vienna since 2015. In the first part of this interview, he talks about his career and the missions he has completed abroad to date:
From a high school specializing in electrical engineering to Médicins Sans Frontières. A quite unusual route, wouldn’t you say?
Yes and no. I always knew that I wanted to work in an international environment. During my degree I learned to appreciate the advantages of being part of a multinational and multicultural team. However, it was a couple of years later that my career took this path, after I happened to attend an MSF publicity event. At the time, the MSF presentation began with the words:
"I want to put an end to a myth. Médicins Sans Frontières not only relies on medical personnel, it also needs logistics experts, technicians, and staff with administrative and financial skills."
At the time, I thought that although I had no medical education, my skills were relevant in two important areas. And that’s what happened. During my first missions I was able to draw on my experience in administration and finance. My logistics knowledge came into play a little later. Over time, I was then made responsible for entire projects. For more than a year now, my role in our Vienna office has been humanitarian agendas and raising awareness. Raising awareness and advocating on behalf of our patients is a key part of our work at MSF.
"I would even go so far as to say that giving a voice to those in need is the reason that MSF was founded almost 45 years ago: a voice which is heard not only by the public, but also by various decision-makers."
And that’s the goal of our advocacy work here in Austria, to effect a positive change for people in need by instigating dialogue with decision-makers, and taking a critical public stance on humanitarian topics.
You’ve already worked in a variety of roles, supporting and running projects. Which project sticks out most predominantly in your memory?
Basically, I’d say the closer you are to the patients and the local population, the more intensive and moving our work is. You see and directly experience the challenges of our work, and sadly also the limitations. This is particularly the case in emergency missions, for example when I served as an emergency aid coordinator during an outbreak of cholera in Zambia, and in the aftermath of an earthquake in Peru. Foremost in my memory are my missions to Yemen and Syria where, despite the difficult and sadly also often hopeless situation, the local population were exemplary hosts, both polite and friendly.
"I will never forget the pleas of one colleague to make sure I tell my friends and acquaintances back in Austria what Yemen’s people are really like."
In the second part of the interview you will read more about Franz Luef’s missions in Syria, Yemen, and Jordan. In 2012, for example, he was responsible for the rebuilding of a field hospital in the north of Aleppo, where the challenge lay in finding a safe and suitable location. Early in 2014, he started a project to provide medical care to Syrians with chronic diseases who had no access to the Jordanian medical system. Franz Luef will also describe the challenges brought by the current refugee crisis as he sees them.