Delivering humanitarian relief

By Ret Boney

RALEIGH, N.C. — A commitment to quality and independent funding are key to the success of Doctors Without Borders, its U.S. head said during a lecture at Meredith College in Raleigh.

The school hosted Nicolas de Torrente on Feb. 16 as part of its Presidential Lecture Series sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina.

With the theme of “Our World, Our Responsibility: Contributing to Positive Change Around the Globe,” the series brings to the campus speakers, exhibits and performances throughout the year.

De Torrente is executive director of the U.S. office of Doctors Without Borders, an international humanitarian relief organization whose 2,500 field staff, including doctors and nurses, provides free medical care in about 80 countries worldwide.

The group works to alleviate suffering in locations devastated by crises, including war, famine and natural disasters.

“We believe that people caught up in crisis deserve to receive access to health care to save them,” he said.  “It’s life-saving assistance when people need it the most.

The group also works to raise awareness about conditions that cause suffering, and advocates for changes in policies that it believes would relieve suffering.

The goal of Doctors Without Borders is to “reach people, whoever they are, without discrimination and to be able to focus efforts on those who need it the most,” de Torrente said

To do that well, he said, the group relies on private funding.

“We’ve developed an independent funding base so we can focus on areas of biggest need with the most flexibility possible,” he said.  “We can’t be reliant on government funding, or we can’t do this.”

And while his group serves the poorest people in some of the poorest countries in the world, providing excellent care is still paramount, he said.

“We can’t lower the bar because these are poor people in poor countries,” he said.  “We have to challenge ourselves to do more – to raise the bar and improve the quality of care.”

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