MSF president Dr. Joanne Liu on Ebola, Syria and Kunduz
Former Montreal physician says political will is key to ending large humanitarian crises
Not so long ago, Joanne Liu was a Montreal doctor at Sainte-Justine Hospital.
Now, the Quebec City native and McGill graduate is the international president of Doctors Without Borders, also known by its French name, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).
This week, she spoke with Sue Smith, host of CBC Montreal's Homerun, on the humanitarian crisis the organization faced in the past year and why she stays optimistic.
The biggest challenges of 2015
The World Health Organization declared the end of Ebola in Guinea at the end of the year, and we hope on Jan. 15 that Liberia will be declared Ebola-free for the third time. It's really key that we make sure that next time we will not repeat history and that we respond in a timely fashion.
MSF is a frontline actor and will continue to be a frontline actor, but at the end of the day what needs to be done to fix bigger problems is political solutions.
On the challenges of being in Syria
We had a colleague who got abducted in 2014, and they were released, but since then we haven't been able to negotiate a space. We have what I call in-and-out visits, but we don't have teams that are staying in Syria on a full-time basis.
On having to negotiate with the Islamic State
In the past it's been the rebellion in Angola, Boko Haram, and in Syria it can be the Syrian army or the Islamic State. Everywhere, we need to talk to everybody.
It's difficult and sometimes we have to just say that we're unable to negotiate a safe space for our staff and our patients.
On the bombing of MSF's Trauma centre in Kunduz, Afghanistan
But beyond that, what is at stake for us is to safeguard a neutral and impartial medical space in war zones. In 2016, everyone understands that when you're fighting for your life in a hospital, you don't expect to get a bomb on your head. I think that if we let this go by, as if it was a non-event, we're giving a blank cheque to anyone who's at war today.
On how she stays optimistic
And if I'm not optimistic, who will be?
The interview has been edited for clarity.