Fieldset
Eleven incredible eyewitness stories that inspired us in 2019

From noma to natural disasters, mental health to malnutrition, our staff were on the frontline of humanitarian healthcare in 2019. Here, we share some of their most extraordinary experiences to bring you closer to the action and the people we work tirelessly to help. 

Eleven incredible eye-witness stories that inspired us in 2019

1. Noma in Nigeria: “The resilience of our patients is astounding”

"Even with the disease, many would be up and about, smiling in the evening after their surgery, often making us wonder if it was the same patient who we had operated on that morning."

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Amina, an 18-year-old noma patient from Yobe state
Amina, an 18-year-old noma patient from Yobe state

Noma is an overlooked but dangerous disease that can leave often young patients severely disfigured – their faces changed forever by a gangrenous infection. Hafiz, a surgeon from India, shares his experience providing life-changing reconstructive surgery in Nigeria.

READ HAFIZ'S STORY >


2. Crossing the swamp: How we get healthcare to the people in remote South Sudan

"With a fierce sun beating down and the weight of heavy backpacks, things began to get uncomfortable. Little did we know that things would get worse."

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Navigating the swamps of South Sudan
Navigating the swamps of South Sudan

Our teams will always go the extra mile to reach patients, but it's not often through a vast and murky swamp. Melissa, a nurse from the UK, takes us on her epic and exhausting journey to a remote clinic in South Sudan.

READ MELISSA'S STORY >


3. Not my war

"We have to believe in humanity and compassion and safeguard this space. Because it is within this space that we can end unnecessary suffering."

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 A member of MSF staff photographed in the Sri-Lankan town of Killinochchi, in 2007
A member of MSF staff photographed in the Sri-Lankan town of Killinochchi, in 2007

What can years of both living and working in conflict zones teach a person? One staff member writes this anonymous but deeply personal reflection on the impact of war and the lessons that inspired their path towards humanitarianism.

READ THEIR STORY >


4. Flowers in dark water: Recovering from Cyclone Idai

"Someone crouches down to unearth something essential that is invisible to my eyes: tired hands dig out family portraits, a T-shirt, someone’s favourite mirror. Memories of a life buried by the rain."

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The destruction wrought by Cyclone Idai on the road between Nhamatanda and Tica in Mozambique
The destruction wrought by Cyclone Idai on the road between Nhamatanda and Tica in Mozambique

"Nothing symbolises the destruction caused by Cyclone Idai in Mozambique more than the trees," writes Brazilian doctor Ana in this poetic blog. She shares the humbling and, at times, heartbreaking stories of those who survived the devastation of this massive natural disaster.

READ ANA'S STORY >


5. "Maternity, now!"

"The baby’s heartbeat slowly begins picking up; it attempts to breathe independently – it might just make it!"

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A mother with her newborn baby in the maternity ward in Leer, South Sudan
A mother with her newborn baby in the maternity ward in Leer, South Sudan

Logistician Dan is a trained first responder, but when he asks midwife Luise to teach him a few new skills, he's plunged into a life-threatening emergency where both a mother and baby face slim odds of survival. Told from two different perspectives, this action-packed story takes us inside the maternity ward in Leer, South Sudan.

READ DAN AND LUISE'S STORY >


6. The first little lady of Kenema Hospital

"The first time our sweet patient started clapping and singing with the staff at feeding time, I knew that we were here for a reason."

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The first little lady of Kenema hospital, Fudia
The first little lady of Kenema hospital, Fudia

In Sierra Leone, just hours after the doors to a brand new hospital open, US nurse Amanda receives a call. The first-ever patient has arrived in the emergency room– a 15-month-old girl suffering from severe acute malnutrition. Over the next few days, as more and more patients arrive, the team works hard to bring a smile to the face of their "first little lady".

READ AMANDA'S STORY >


7. “The love for your child is good”: Mental health and the Rohingya crisis

"Men and boys pass me quickly, deftly negotiating the steep, bamboo-sided hill steps barefoot, while balancing eight-foot bamboo poles on their shoulders, seemingly with ease in the 40-degree heat."

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UK mental health specialist Alison Fogg with the team in Bangladesh
UK mental health specialist Alison Fogg with the team in Bangladesh

How do you care for people's mental health when the situation around them is so unstable? British mental health officer Alison Fogg shares this beautifully written blog post, detailing her experience of treating Rohingya people inside the world's largest refugee camp.

READ ALISON'S STORY >


8. “I have never seen a child recover from this before”

"Like her mother, her body was adorned with the markings and jewellery of her tribe. She was beautiful."

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A child connected to an electric-powered oxygen concentrator
A child connected to an electric-powered oxygen concentrator

A critically ill young girl is brought into a remote MSF health centre. She's unconscious and struggling to breathe. To save her, British doctor Sarah Wookey and her team need two things: dedication and luck.

READ SARAH'S STORY >


9. “This is why we are here”: The race to save a life in South Sudan

"We will not stop treating her, we will not withdraw support."

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Nyame and her baby
Nyame and her baby

In remote Old Fangak, a woman is in desperate need of medical treatment. But with no surgical facilities nearby and the runway out of action, the team's options are limited and time is running out. Australian doctor Tom shares this incredibly tense story of determination and hope.

READ TOM'S STORY >


10. Mary: Unchained

"I told her we were twins and that we both looked beautiful – then she laughed, revealing a dazzling smile. I knew at that moment we had made a connection."

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Kristine and Mary greet each other for a follow-up appointment
Kristine and Mary greet each other for a follow-up appointment

"The tsunami of emotions that washed over me, I cannot even begin to describe," writes US midwife Kristine Lauria in this powerful and personal blog. Working in a place where mental illness is poorly understood, she meets a new mum in need of psychological support and human connection.

THIS IS READ KRISTINE'S STORY >


11. The white bed

"In Magaria, time can quickly become our enemy, so we must act swiftly."

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Canadian doctor Viviane Camirand on her clinical rounds at the District Hospital of Magaria in Niger
Canadian doctor Viviane Camirand on her clinical rounds at the District Hospital of Magaria in Niger

Every year, food shortages and the rainy season trigger a spike of malnutrition and malaria in Niger, with a dramatic impact on children. At Magaria District Hospital, it's a race against the clock for doctor Viviane and her team as they try to save the life of a severely malnourished young girl... 

READ VIVIAN'S STORY >

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If these stories have inspired you, why not consider working for MSF or supporting our projects around the world with a donation.