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Our top 12 media moments of 2020

23 Dec 2020

The global COVID-19 pandemic has been at the centre of all our news this year. Here are some of the key moments captured in Australian and New Zealand media. 

A young girl from Tondo gets vaccinated at the Likhaan clinic. Philippines 2017 © Hannah Reyes Morales

1. “Queensland GP faces uphill cancer battle in developing countries”

Australia has one of the lowest rates of cervical cancer in the world, thanks to an extensive screening program and the HPV vaccine. While Australia is on track to eradicate cervical cancer by 2035, this is not the case for many low-middle income countries where MSF works. In this story for The Brisbane Times, Dr Tonia Marquardt, MSF medical manager, spoke about our work testing, treating and screening for cervical cancer in the Philippines.


Medical staff don personal protective equipment before entering the COVID-19 treatment unit at Saint-Joseph Hospital in Kinshasa, DRC. © MSF/Franck Ngonga

2. “MSF: fighting a virus without borders"

Dr Clair Mills, MSF medical director, spoke to Kathryn Ryan from RNZ Nine to Noon about MSF’s early intervention in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.  


3. “COVID-19: MSF’s response”

The coronavirus pandemic is putting a strain on aid organisations with border closures and health risks for workers and volunteers. Jennifer Tierney, MSF Australia Executive Director, spoke with ABC TV Weekend Breakfast about the challenges faced by the organisation.


A Rohingya refugee stands atop his makeshift shelter in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. © Anthony Kwan/MSF

4. “Preparing for COVID-19 in the world’s largest refugee camp”

Paul Brockmann, MSF country representative based in Bangladesh, wrote this opinion piece for SBS online, describing the reality of preparing for a COVID-19 outbreak in Cox's Bazar.

Sue Mitchell, MSF psychologist. © MSF

5. “Seven years in lockdown: the mental health impacts of offshore detention”

The mental health impacts of self-isolation and restricted movement have been widely discussed this year. But what if there was no end in sight to restricted movement? Ahead of World Refugee Day, Sue Mitchell, MSF psychologist, wrote an opinion piece for Croakey calling for an end to the harmful and inhumane policy of mandatory offshore detention


© Four Corners/ABC

6. “Injection of Hope: The hunt for a COVID-19 vaccine”

Health authorities and governments insist that without an effective vaccine or treatment for coronavirus, life cannot fully return to normal. In this Four Corners report, Jennifer Tierney, MSF Australia Executive Director, spoke with journalist Sophie McNeill about the importance of ensuring that any vaccine or treatment produced is safe, effective and distributed based on needs alone.


 Three-year-old Mbisa Eme Kosenge, undergoing treatment for measles in DRC. © Caroline Thirion/MSF

7. “DRC: Ebola, measles and COVID-19”

In June, DRC declared its 11th Ebola outbreak, following the revelation of new cases in the Equateur province. This came as the DRC continued to battle increasing cases of COVID-19 and the country’s deadliest measles epidemic, the largest in the world today. Doctor Saschveen Singh, MSF tropical infectious diseases advisor spoke with ABC’s Health Report about the challenges tackling three epidemics at once.


Professor Herwig Drobetz, MSF surgeon. © MSF

8. “Meaningful medicine at its best”

MSF surgeon, Professor Herwig Drobetz, was profiled in Surgical News about his time working with the organisation in both Hassakeh, in northeastern Syria and Gaza, Palestine. Drobetz spoke about the Masquelet technique in Gaza – an elegant way to deal with bone defects in a low-resource setting, making future bone grafting much easier.


MSF nurse Nara Duarte demonstrates good hand hygiene during an MSF intervention in the Lake Mirini region of the Amazon, Brazil. © Diego Baravelli/MSF

9. “COVID-19’s impacts on the world’s vulnerable children”

As the coronavirus pandemic reshapes lives around the world, the health needs of children in low-income settings continue to overwhelm already stretched health systems. The impact of COVID-19 on children is twofold: the direct effects of the disease itself, and the indirect consequences. MSF paediatric advisor Dr Nikola Morton penned this piece for MJA Insight Plus, looking at the indirect consequences of the virus.


Moria refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece burns on 9 September, 2020. A subsequent fire destroyed the camp and left tens of thousands of residents without shelter. © Enri Canaj/MSF

10. “Greece sends ships to house migrants are camp destroyed”

Around 12,000 people were forced to evacuate Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos after fire destroyed the camp in September. Despite calls to end the containment of refugees and asylum seekers on Lesbos, the Greek government began constructing a new camp to house those left without shelter. Faris Al Jawad, MSF communications manager spoke with ABC RN Breakfast about MSF’s effort to continue to provide care to people, while urging authorities to immediately evacuate them to safety.


11. “Australia must side with people over pharma companies on COVID-19 treatments”

Until now, Australia has indicated, along with seven other countries and the European Union, that it will oppose a proposal to waive patents and monopolies on vaccines and tools used to fight COVID-19. Jennifer Tierney, MSF Australia Executive Director, wrote this opinion piece for The Canberra Times, emphasising that a global pandemic requires a global response.


The post-natal ward of MSF’s Dasht-e-Barchi maternity hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan, where an average of 1,300 deliveries were assisted every month before a brutal armed attack in June 2020. © Sandra Calligaro

12. “Access to sexual and reproductive healthcare”

As COVID-19 continues to spread, sexual and reproductive health services are suffering. There are many reasons for this: women avoiding care due to fear of infection or the inability to have a companion, lockdowns, reduced capacity to pay for services as well as to provide them. In this piece for O&G Magazine, MSF’s Dr Claire Fotheringham, Dr Roopan Gill and Alexandra Brown write about MSF’s experience in four essential services: maternity care; safe abortion care and family planning; sexual and intimate partner violence care; and cervical cancer prevention.