Friday, January 13, 2006

Annie Lennox collaborates with on the Doctors on the Front Line series broadcast on BBC World
7th, 14th, 21st, 28th January 2006
02:30, 07:30, 13:30, and 21:30 GMT

Singer Annie Lennox has agreed to narrate the Doctors on the Front Line programmes for BBC World.

Episode 1 of this series focuses on Haiti, where MSF has been operating a trauma centre, St. Joseph’s Hospital, in Port-au-Prince, since December 2004. A third of its patients are treated for gunshot wounds. Knife wounds are the second most common category.

A Haitian physician working for MSF says, “We have a lot of injuries caused by fragmentation bullets. Usually there is a small entry wound and a small exit wound. These bullets explode inside the abdomen of the patient and cause a lot of internal injuries. Fragmentary bullets are used by everyone.”

By the end of March 2005, the St. Joseph’s doctors had treated more than 1,000 patients for bullet wounds. And the numbers are rising with about 8 victims a day being treated.

In Episode 2, we travel to Sudan. Peace between Khartoum and the SPLA (Sudan’s People Liberation Army) in the south of Sudan has brought few benefits so far. There are no roads, cattle and wife-stealing are rife, and famine stalks. Civil conflict has been a barrier to development, including the provision of the most basic services.

In this forbidding environment MSF operates a small hospital in Marial Lou which must cater for the needs of 300,000 people. The biggest challenge here is operating feeding centres with only a third of the food aid the World Food Programme assesses this region requires.

Doctors have noticed a rise in inter-tribal conflict, with food and competition for pasture the main causes.

Episode 3 takes us to Honduras, where the capital, Tegucigalpa, is like an undeclared war zone. There is an average of 16 assassinations every day. Despite the presidential elections of 2002, the military are still very much in charge. The country is little changed from the “heyday” of Central America’s banana republic days. There has been a growth in organised crime, fuelled by drug trafficking.

As ever, it is the children who are the frontline victims of this failing state. Young teenagers are inducted into the gangs and girls into prostitution in order to survive.

A year ago, MSF set up a medical and counselling centre for 400 children. While we were filming, one of the girls receiving counselling was murdered on the streets.

And finally, Episode 4 shows the situation in Somalia, the only country that has no government in residence. It is too dangerous for the Kenya-based government to return.

Fourteen years of civil war and anarchy have led to the deaths of two million people. Clan rivalry and warfare have destroyed every semblance of normality. Three quarters of the population has no access to even the most rudimentary health care - 1,600 women out of every 100,000 die in childbirth.

Most development agencies have quit. MSF is one of the few to stay on. Our film comes from a small town called Dinsoor, where the warlords have not yet eliminated traditional tribal governance and MSF is having a modicum of success in delivering health care by working through the tribal elders.


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