A cholera tent roadshow, the premiere of a documentary narrated by Daniel Day-Lewis, and a photo exhibition by award-winning Irish film-maker Michael Lavelle are just some of the highlights of the first ever MSF Ireland Week, which will run from 23rd to 30th September 2012.
The week is being organised by the Irish office of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), a medical humanitarian organisation that provides independent medical aid to victims of war, disasters and disease outbreaks in nearly 70 countries throughout the world.
The programme of events for the week was officially launched by Jane-Ann McKenna, Head of MSF Ireland with Gabriel Fitzpatrick and Mark Campbell, two Irish doctors who have volunteered with MSF in the past. Speaking at the launch, Ms. McKenna said the aim of the week is to highlight the contribution Irish volunteers and donors make to MSF’s international work.
“Volunteers from right across Ireland are heavily involved in the work of MSF overseas,” she said. “At present, for example, we have volunteers from Tipperary, Galway and Longford working on missions in Chad, Congo and Pakistan, while others have just recently returned from South Sudan and Afghanistan.
“MSF works principally in emergency situations, taking action quickly in order to save lives. The Irish office has been in operation since 2006, and we are providing crucial support to MSF’s international work, both in terms of fundraising and volunteers. With MSF Ireland Week, we’re aiming to showcase the work of our volunteers and also to encourage the general public to find out more about what we do.”
Programme of Events
One of the highlights of MSF Ireland Week will be a photography exhibition featuring photos taken by award-winning Irish film-maker Michael Lavelle (best known for his work on the hit film ‘His and Hers’) during his visit to an MSF clinic in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The ‘Taking Action. Saving Lives’ exhibition will run in the Powerscourt Centre and Fixx Coffeehouse in Dublin, and photographs of Irish MSF volunteers will also be on display. The exhibition will be officially opened by popular columnist Roisin Ingle at a public event in the Powerscourt Centre this coming Sunday (23.09.12) at 12 noon.
Another highlight of MSF Ireland Week will be the Irish premiere of ‘Access to the Danger Zone’, a new documentary, narrated by Daniel Day-Lewis, which follows the work of MSF in Kenya, Afghanistan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. President Michael D. Higgins will be the guest of honour at the premiere screening next Wednesday (26.09.12).
Throughout the week, members of the public will have an opportunity to experience firsthand the type of work MSF does overseas by visiting a simulated cholera treatment centre. A cholera tent – a replica of those usedin real-life cholera outbreaks, such as those that occurred recently in Haiti, Pakistan and Zimbabwe – will be pitched in various locations throughout the country, including Dublin city centre, Blanchardstown, Cork and Galway. Treatment beds and equipment will be on display, along with iPads on which visitors canengage with video footage from MSF projects around the world.
A free public screening of ‘Living in Emergency’, an award-winning documentary filmed in the war-zones of Liberia and Congo, will also take place as part of the week, next Tuesday (23.09.12) at The Light House Cinema in Dublin at 7pm.
“We’re hoping to show Irish people that they can contribute directly to helping people in areas of extreme crisis,” said Jane-Ann McKenna. “We hear daily about the conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan, and famine and disease outbreaks in Chad and Niger. These are the really urgent, challenging situations where MSF is one of the few organisations able to reach people and provide life-saving aid. By donating to MSF or by volunteering with us, Irish people can provide direct assistance to those who need it most.”
Testimony from a Volunteer
Dr. Gabriel Fitzpatrick, who is originally from Monaghan and now lives in Dublin, spoke about his own experiences of volunteering with MSF at today’s launch.
“I spent seven months in Chad, where I experienced 50-degree heat and very basic conditions, while being surrounded by severe famine and simmering civil war. While I was there, there was a cholera outbreak, and I will never forget the fear this engendered in the local people. You could see it in their eyes. Cholera had hit the same area a few years previously, and they remembered the toll it had taken as it spread. On this occasion, however, MSF’s work prevented it from becoming a full-blown epidemic.
“I also worked a lot with malnourished children, helping them to regain their health. Working on nutrition is particularly rewarding because you get the opportunity to bring children back from the brink of death. There was an 18 per cent per week mortality rate for under-fives when I began working in Chad; this had dropped to three per cent by the end of my time there.”
Dr. Fitzpatrick is one of the Irish volunteers featured in the ‘Taking Action. Saving Lives’ photography exhibition, which is running throughout MSF Ireland Week.