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Before joining the team in Dublin, Sam spent two years as the international senior communications coordinator as part of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)’s response to the Syria Crisis. He has also spent time in Nepal as part of MSF’s earthquake response and in Guinea as part of the Ebola response. Prior to his role on the Syria crisis team, Sam worked for five years as director of communications for MSF in Japan.
I first came across MSF in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia, where I had been sent by my news agency to cover the disaster. MSF had always been on my radar, as it has a particularly strong reputation among journalists because of its history (founded by doctors and journalists) as well as its 'témoignage' work.
MSF was responding to the aftermath of the tsunami in a very professional and effective way, and I also remember meeting teams on the ground who were making some very principled decisions around fundraising and operations due to the overwhelming response to the disaster from the public. It impressed me at the time.
Also in Nepal, where I had worked, I very clearly remember meeting some of the staff who had just trekked back several days after working in field hospitals in remote areas close to frontlines of a conflict between the state and rebel forces. In the areas they were working in, no other medical care was available for the people of these areas. I was deeply impressed by the perseverance and tenacity of the teams to reach people who were completely cut-off and this again made me think seriously about how I could contribute to the work of MSF.
What will you take with you after working on the Syria crisis?
Working on the Syria crisis has been some of the most challenging times of my career to date, but also the most rewarding.
Also spending time in projects that support our Syria response: in places like Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey - and talking to the dedicated staff was fascinating and inspiring. The innovation and constant hard graft that the teams employ in trying to reach patients, in what is such a complex context, is truly impressive. The needs of the people who remain trapped inside Syria are still extremely high and we need to do more to meet them.
We have a number of projects we run directly ourselves, but we also dedicate a lot of resources to supporting Syrian medical teams and networks in areas we cannot access throughout the country.
The medical staff could have very easily fled, but they remain in Aleppo, in Deraa, in Homs and elsewhere to provide badly needed medical care to people who are in these areas. The dedication shown by them is truly astounding.
Field staff and volunteers from Ireland
Irish staff we recruit here and send overseas tend to get very good feedback about their work in the field, and are often regarded as being hard-working and dedicated. I know that we can add to MSF’s work by sending more people from here to do what is often extremely difficult but at the same time extremely rewarding work overseas.
MSF is responding to multiple large-scale crises, such as the mass displacement and movement of people on account of war, persecution and extreme poverty. The malnutrition crisis in Borno State, Nigeria is an on-going major crisis too. There's the consequences of the Yemen conflict on the people of that country and the 'forgotten crises' in Central African Republic, South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo too.
MSF in Ireland, our supporters here and the staff that we send out to ‘the field’ all contribute to our work responding to multiple on-going crises and our medical mission in over 65 countries around the world.