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DEVELOPMENT REPORT – July 7, 2003: Doctors Without Borders - 2003-07-06

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

When a crisis develops in the world, Doctors Without Borders is usually there to help. This organization provides emergency care to victims of armed conflict, natural and manmade disasters, and fast-spreading diseases. The group also assists people who have no other way to receive health care. It trains local health workers, provides mental health care, and organizes nutrition and other programs.

Doctors Without Borders is also known by its French name, Medecins Sans Frontieres. A group of French doctors started the organization in nineteen-seventy-one. They said they felt strongly that race, religion and political beliefs should not prevent someone from receiving health care. They also said the medical needs of individuals were more important than national borders.

Doctors Without Borders is also working to get medicines to poor people. It is involved in a new drug research organization announced last Thursday in Geneva. The effort is called the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative. Research centers in Brazil, France, India, Kenya and Malaysia are also involved.

The organizers say drug companies have forgotten about the diseases that affect millions of people in developing countries. Scientists will seek new drugs to treat diseases like sleeping sickness and leishmaniasis. Both are spread by insects. The initiative is to spend about two-hundred-fifty-million dollars over the next ten years to develop new treatments for these and other diseases.

Medical professionals, administrators and engineers who give their services for free make it possible for Doctors Without Borders to operate. It has offices in eighteen countries, but has provided aid in more than eighty nations. This is with the help of local workers and more than two-thousand volunteers.

In nineteen-ninety-nine, Doctors Without Borders won the Nobel Peace Prize. The group was recognized for its work in the conflicts in Kosovo and East Timor.

But the kind of work that this humanitarian aid group and others do is not without cost. Last year, the head of operations for Doctors Without Borders in the Russian republic of Dagestan was kidnapped. Russian and local officials have been working to solve the case.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss.