Accessibility links

Breaking News

Film Captures Risky Work of Doctors Without Borders

Or download MP3 (Right-click or option-click and save link)

This is the VOA Special English Development Report.

"Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders" is a documentary by movie director Mark Hopkins. It tells the story of four doctors and their volunteer work in Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The award-winning film was first shown at the two thousand eight Venice Film Festival. It opened in the United States last month.

Doctors Without Borders is a humanitarian organization also known by its French name, Medecins Sans Frontieres. It handles emergencies caused by war, infectious disease and natural disasters.

The group says this was the first time it gave a documentary crew unrestricted access to its field operations. Mr. Hopkins and his crew filmed the doctors working under some of the most extreme and dangerous conditions imaginable.

Scene from ''Living in Emergency"
Scene from ''Living in Emergency"

The director says "Living in Emergency" is a story about how things are, not how you wish things were.

Doctor Tom Krueger from the United States volunteered in Liberia in two thousand three, after two civil wars.

TOM KRUEGER: "It was pretty much of a shock when I got here. I mean, if you're going to talk to some of your friends about some of the stuff you saw -- and you can't describe the smells, the feeling of the heat on your body and the sweat running down your back. The smell of the pus that hits your nose, and of unwashed bodies in a closed room. You know, the circulation, and the smell of your own panic, you know, when you're not sure what to do."

Another doctor in the film, Australian Chris Brasheer, has been with Doctors Without Borders for nine years. He has served in the Democratic Republic of Congo and spent time in Liberia. He describes some of the conditions he faced.

Chris Brasheer: "No water, no electricity, no food -- pretty apocalyptic really."

Doctors Without Borders was established in nineteen seventy-one by doctors and journalists in France. Today, the group provides humanitarian medical aid in nearly sixty countries.

On an average day, it says, almost twenty-seven thousand doctors, nurses and others work in teams of local and foreign aid workers.

Doctor Chiara Lepora from Italy also appears in the film. She spent several years working with the group, and told VOA's Penelope Poulou that she will probably return.

CHIARA LEPORA: "There are a lot of doctors who are willing to volunteer once, but not many doctors who are willing to repeat their experience."

Doctors Without Borders is structured as an international movement. It has organizations in nineteen countries, including the United States. Ninety percent of its money comes from private sources. In nineteen ninety-nine the group received the Nobel Peace Prize.

And that's the VOA Special English Development Report, written by June Simms. Transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our reports are at I'm Steve Ember.