Frank Doerner (General Director, Medecins sans Frontieres)

16.09.2010 - Interview conducted by Kathleen Vesper

Q1.How much support do non-governmental organizations such as MSF receive from the governments in Latin America?

This depends strongly on the country, setting and the type of intervention. MSF normally sets up a “Memorandum of Understanding“  with the different departments of the government to avoid or reduce problems. If it’s a natural disaster intervention it’s much easier to receive support and eases normally lengthy procedures (e.g visa applications). What can be done to raise awareness of humanitarian problems in Latin America; awareness campaigns, publishing of reports and statements and peer- support groups who speak out on their own behalf.

Q2.Can cultural agencies work alongside organizations like MSF? Can they help with providing better help?

It’s essential and important to establish relationships with local agencies and NGO’s. It has many advantages (context analysis, tribal understanding) and we try to liaise as best as we can to achieve the best possible outcome.

Q3.How difficult is it to appropriately divide the given annual budget to each program in all the different countries?

In MSF we clearly separate each country and their projects. There is no exchange and distribution of money amongst different countries. Each country and project has its own annual and strategic plan and receives the budget accordingly.

Q4.How difficult would you describe the work in Haiti at the moment? How did things go there in the beginning?

Within seconds a wide part of Haiti had been destroyed and everything got buried under rubble. Human beings, buildings, construction, roads, basically everything. To rebuild this country takes a long time. At the beginning MSF focused to save lives and provided all kind of medical care and treatment including inflatable hospitals. Now the situation has stabilized but the demands to provide essential things are still very high.

Q5. How can individuals help or support MSF? Donating money, volunteer work?

As an NGO, we are always depending on donations, preferably private donations. Because of mainly safety reasons we don’t engage any volunteer workers presenting straight in our projects. Volunteers who want to work with MSF will have to go through the normal application process via one of our sectional offices. In Germany it is our office in Berlin or