Médecins Sans Frontières is on the front lines of the Mexican drug war

The northwestern Mexican state of Guerrero’s ocean side vistas, Mayan and Zapotec heritage and mountainous terrain would make it a postcard-pretty place to be—if it weren’t for all the murder and financial destitution.

Because of the extreme poverty in the region, the state has one of the lowest life expectancy rates in the nation. According to the Guardian, close to 70% of the people who call Guerrero home, live in poverty. This misery experienced on a daily basis by those living in Guerrero is compounded by an ongoing turf war between cartels and the Mexican military resulting in one of the highest murder rates per capita, in the world. The violence is so extreme that most professionals who can afford to pick up and relocate, have done so. The loss of lawyers? Meh. However, having no Doctors or other medical staff to care for a population trapped in an already untenable situation is nightmare.

Thankfully, with little fanfare, Médecins Sans Frontières is on the scene, trying to make a difference.

From The Guardian:

Before patients are seen, the clinical team – three doctors, two psychologists and a nurse – explain that MSF is neutral, independent, free of charge and available to anyone as long as weapons are left outside.

This is the standard pep talk in the state of Guerrero, where MSF has taken over 11 primary health clinics that have closed or are limited by the security crisis in communities long neglected by the state.

In addition to regular clinics, MSF provides rapid response interventions in the aftermath of grave incidents like mass kidnappings, gun battles and massacres, which leave displaced or trapped communities in psychological turmoil.

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Ebola keeps on keeping on

Hey gang, let's talk Ebola: Everyone's favorite viral boogeyman.

Over the weekend, the AFP News Agency reported that health professionals in the Democratic Republic of Congo have uncovered five new confirmed cases of Ebola: three cases in the Bikoro area and two in Wangata. This most recent outbreak of the disease in the country’s northwest has resulted in more than 50 confirmed cases and 25 deaths. These numbers, of course, only reflect the incidents of the disease that health agencies such as the World Health Organization and Medecins Sans Frontieres and DR Congo’s healthcare system are aware of.

As such, the push to track everyone who has come into contact with the disease and take appropriate precautions continues, albeit slowly. One of the biggest hurtles in tracking and containing Ebola is that, logistically, the rural regions of DR Congo are a pain in the ass. The roads are often so pocketed with potholes that the only way to reliable traverse them is with a motorcycle—and that’s if there are any roads at all. Many of the smaller villages surrounding Bikoro are packed away by dense jungle. Additionally, cellular coverage in the country’s northwestern region comes with massive holes. This makes doing important work, such as sending field operatives into areas of infection, shipping vaccines or sending collected data back for processing extremely difficult.

According to the New York Times, because of these difficulties, researchers are having a hard time piecing together how the current strain of the virus was transmitted. This, in turn, makes vaccinating the right people in the hopes of stopping the spread of the disease an uphill battle. Read the rest

Two late-stage Ebola patients break quarantine, the number they may have infected is unknown

Last week, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s latest Ebola outbreak was confirmed to have spread to Mbandaka, a transportation hub, home to over one million people. As of the time that this post was written, 31 cases of the disease have been confirmed in the west African nation. Of those confirmed to have been afflicted, nine have died.

Oh, and three individuals confirmed to have contracted the disease, two of which who were showing significant symptoms, managed to escape quarantine and mingle with an unknown number of people.

From the Washington Post:

In a briefing in Geneva, Jean-Clement Cabrol, a doctor who had just returned from Congo, said "the patients were in the active phase of the disease, vomiting" when their families removed them from the hospital, put them on motorcycles, and took them to a religious gathering of 50 people. Ebola is contagious through bodily fluids, and both patients, who were at an acute phase of the illness, died within hours.

Those two were among the three Ebola patients who left a hospital isolation ward and reentered the general population, according to the Doctors Without Borders mission in the Congolese city of Mbandaka.

That two of the patients, at the height of their power to infect others, opted to leave the quarantine that they’d been put under reads like something monstrous. But it couldn’t be more human. In their final hours, the pair, knowing that death couldn’t have been closer, turned to the comfort of their families and their faith, hoping that it would be a balm against the unspeakable misery that they must have been in. Read the rest

The Humble Freedom Bundle: pay $30 or more, benefit charities fighting the #muslimban, get a preview of Wil Wheaton reading WALKAWAY

The Humble Freedom Bundle will take $30 or more and in return give you more than 50 games, ebooks audiobooks and comics, including two never-before-heard audiobook titles from me: a newly mastered edition of the audiobook of my book on copyright, the internet and artistic integrity, Information Doesn't Want to be Free, featuring both Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer reading their introductions; and, the first 18 minutes of the forthcoming audiobook of my novel Walkaway, read by Wil Wheaton (the full book also features many other fine readers, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Amber Benson and Amanda Palmer from the Dresden Dolls). Read the rest

United Nations reminds members including U.S. to not bomb hospitals and kill doctors please

The United Nations Security Council recently passed a resolution reminding members that intentional attacks on medical facilities are war crimes. Read the rest

That hospital we bombed in Afghanistan in 2015? Not a war crime, says Pentagon

U.S. forces bombed a Doctors Without Borders-run hospital in Afghanistan last year, destroying it and killing and injuring scores of medical personnel and patients. But the air strike didn't amount to a war crime because it was caused by "unintentional human errors, process errors, and equipment failures," and “other factors,” U.S. military authorities said today. Read the rest

US warplane shot at survivors fleeing Doctors Without Borders hospital bombing, MSF reports

Doctors Without Borders released an internal report today that claims a U.S. warplane shot at people who were trying to escape the international medical aid group's hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, after the building was bombed by American forces. Read the rest

Taiwanese Animators tackle Obama's apology for bombing a Doctors Without Borders hospital

Oh, Taiwanese Animators, you rarely disappoint. Read the rest

Obama apologizes to aid group for bombing hospital. MSF: Thanks, but we want an investigation

Doctors Without Borders received an apology from President Barack Obama today for the deadly U.S. bombing of its hospital in northern Afghanistan.

The international medical aid organization released a statement today:

"We reiterate our ask that the U.S. government consent to an independent investigation led by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission to establish what happened in Kunduz, how it happened, and why it happened," said Dr. Joanne Liu, international president of the group, also known as Doctors Without Borders.

The aid group, also known also as Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF, said the proposed commission would gather evidence from the United States, NATO and Afghanistan. After that, the charity would decide whether to seek criminal charges for loss of life and damage.

“If we let this go, we are basically giving a blank check to any countries at war,” MSF International President Joanne Liu told reporters in Geneva. But she noted there was no commitment yet on official cooperation with an independent investigation.

The U.S. air attack Saturday killed 22 patients and medical staffers, including three children, in the northern Afghanistan city of Kunduz, which had been overrun by Taliban militants. Thirty-seven people were injured, including 19 staff members, the charity said.

Aid group seeks independent probe into U.S. attack on Afghan hospital

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