In these days of COVID-19, with their panic, fear and isolation, their restrictions, masks, distancing and handwashing… one thing that can get lost is the fact that the world keeps turning.
Yes, COVID-19 is the most significant outbreak of an infectious disease of our era. But it's important to me to remember that life still goes on. And, of course, MSF’s determination to provide vital healthcare to crisis-hit communities is still clear.
MSF projects around the world have walked the line between responding to COVID-19 and the more “usual” conditions and health challenges people face – such as cholera, malaria and countless neglected diseases; conflict; and insecurity.
The Rohingya refugee crisis
The positive impact our teams can have in the lives of people affected by these crises is often lost in the fog of COVID-19. So, I want to bring your attention to one of these overshadowed success stories.
I want to talk about an MSF hospital in Goyalmara, Bangladesh, on the edge of the largest refugee camp on the planet.
Over three years ago, MSF launched an emergency response to the Rohingya refugee crisis. A violent crackdown by the Myanmar authorities against the country’s Rohingya minority forced an exodus of hundreds of thousands of people fleeing for their lives across the border and into Bangladesh.
Almost a million Rohingya refugees found themselves living in overcrowded conditions in the Cox’s Bazar region of the country.
To treat this newly arrived and highly vulnerable community, MSF’s response included the set-up of two hospitals, three healthcare centres and the launch of multiple life-saving healthcare services.
As a fun thing to do, but also a symbol of successful work by staff in the paediatric intensive care unit of the hospital, it was decided to make a mark on the wall for every newborn child that survived a difficult welcoming into the world.
That mark was to be a footprint. One for every child that got to go home.
I have been following this wall for a few years now, and I have been occasionally sharing new pictures to keep everyone updated.
Initially, there were 12 footprints, then the next year it was over 50. Now, years later, the footprints are still being put on the wall.
As you can see from this photo, there are now hundreds. Hundreds of tiny feet showing the success of the maternity ward.
So, as our world spins in a vortex of COVID-19, filled with misery and lost opportunities… take a breath and remember this image
So, as our world spins in a vortex of COVID-19, filled with misery and lost opportunities… take a breath and remember this image. The memory of children who have overcome their first hurdle in life, with the help and devotion of MSF staff in Bangladesh.
With every new footprint on the wall, they bring a little bit of hope and happiness to a world where these emotions are drained.
Even in the shadow of COVID-19, new life can be celebrated.