Médecins Sans Frontières runs an emergency obstetric and newborn care program in Jahun general hospital in northern Nigeria that includes dedicated care for complicated deliveries and sick newborns. On his first placement with Médecins Sans Frontières, obstetrician-gynaecologist Jared Watts describes how he got to northern Nigeria, and his first ‘kiss’.
“Today is 'Kiss' Day. Yep, I was also a bit confused (and slightly shocked!) when told to be up at 7am and ready for the 'Kiss'. Thankfully, I soon discovered it was not 'racy' as my Grandmother would say, but the way in which I would be transferring between the Nigerian Médecins Sans Frontières office in Abuja and the Project in Jahun. A car would leave Jahun at approximately the same time as we would leave Abuja and we would meet or 'kiss' in the middle. We would then jump from one car to the other, and the vehicles would then return to their respective bases. Today we will be having quite a large 'kiss' with eight people leaving for Jahun.
"The logo on its own obviously has no significant power, but it is what it represents that allows the organisation to undertake its medical and humanitarian work in the difficult political, geographic and war-torn areas."
Today is also the first time I will be wearing my Médecins Sans Frontières t-shirt. The cars will also have flags attached to the front bullbars, proudly flying the Médecins Sans Frontières logo. The logo is visually very interesting with the half-red, half-white figure and the French words 'Médecins Sans Frontières' proudly making up the bottom half of the logo. For many years it has allowed the organisation safe passage, protection and the ability to enter and operate in some of the world's most significant conflict zones. The logo on its own obviously has no significant power, but it is what it represents that allows the organisation to undertake its medical and humanitarian work in the difficult political, geographic and war-torn areas.
During the field worker orientation week, we spent a whole day focusing on safety while in the field. One may have expected that if you are going into such areas that Médecins Sans Frontières does, this would have involved talking about armed guards, escorts and large fortresses with tall walls. However it was quite the opposite. Médecins Sans Frontières has quite an impressive safety record for its projects around the world. Rather than relying on physical defences, the organisations’ safety comes from its reputation and actions, represented by its logo. People know that when they see the Médecins Sans Frontières flag flying, or see a person wearing the white Médecins Sans Frontières shirt with logo, that they will be treated and cared for irrespective of their race, gender, religion, nationality, political affiliations or economic status. That the care they will receive will be of the highest standard possible, and provided without expected payment. The organisations’ reputation of being impartial, and important and of value to the communities it serves, provides it with the ultimate protection and safety.
"I'll proudly wear the Médecins Sans Frontières t-shirt which I have been told is too white at the moment, showing I'm still a newbie!"
While only having been on my first placement for four days now, I have already seen Médecins Sans Frontières’ reputation, represented by the logo, in action many times. When I arrived at the Immigration Desk and presented my papers with the Médecins Sans Frontières letterhead, my passport could not be stamped quickly enough and I was warmly welcomed by the previously stern looking guards. I have seen gates quickly opened for Médecins Sans Frontières logo bearing vehicles and while we have been travelling along, many people stop and wave as the Médecins Sans Frontières convoy drives pass. These people recognise the logo and understand the organisations’ ideology and work they’re doing, and want to help or at least just wave and say 'thanks.'
Over the next 6 weeks I'll proudly wear the Médecins Sans Frontières t-shirt (which I have been told is too white at the moment, showing I'm still a newbie!) and look forward to upholding the organisations’ values by providing the highest level of care to everyone based on their need. Right, it's 7am, time to start the 'Kiss!'”