Responding to Crisis with Doctors Without Borders

Suzanna Bruce is a nurse from Nova Scotia who has been working as a Nurse Activity Manager with Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) since 2018. Founded in 1971, MSF is a humanitarian organization providing healthcare and humanitarian aid to over 70 countries. Last year, Suzanna was working with an MSF team in Uganda responding to a malnutrition crisis in the northeast.

Earlier this year, Goway partnered with MSF to help support their critical work providing emergency medical assistance to people facing humanitarian crises around the world. We caught up with Suzanna to learn about her career, her time in Uganda, and how travellers can support MSF.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length. The views expressed in this interview are those of Suzanna Bruce and are not necessarily representative of MSF.

AB: How did you first get involved with MSF?

SB: I have always wanted to work for MSF specifically. So, when deciding what I wanted to do in university, one of the reasons I chose nursing was because it’s a career MSF needs. I had to work for a while to build my resume and develop skills that would be useful to them as an organization.

What were you doing in Uganda?

We had gotten notification that there was this big malnutrition crisis in the north. We had gone to do our own assessment to see what the situation was and determine if we needed to launch an intervention. The team was made up of myself, two logisticians and then my boss, a medical manager. We would go around to the different health centres to ask them what they saw happening and collect some of their data. We also stopped in some of the small communities to speak with people.

What did you learn about the local community?

A lot of people are still living similarly to how they have been for quite a while, especially some of the communities in rural areas. They’re still farming in a lot of the same ways that they always have been, living with a lot of their traditional culture, which is really nice to see.

In 2014, MSF responded to an ebola crisis in West Africa.

What surprised you about the region?

The thing I keep thinking about is that the cell service is so bad in Nova Scotia I can barely even send a text message, but everywhere in Uganda has the best cell service. You’re in the middle of nowhere and you have perfect 4G. And here I can’t even send a text. [laughs]

What’s something that travellers should know about Uganda that they may not see on a typical vacation?

People should take some time to just go out if they have a day in Kampala. Walk around the streets and buy a rolex—a super common street food (a chapati with egg and cut up tomatoes). It’s street food so I think people may be a bit afraid to try it, but it’s so good. But don’t walk down the street and eat it, as that’s not the polite thing to do [in Uganda]. You have to go somewhere and sit down and eat it.

Generally speaking, how can travellers support the communities they visit?

I think it’s always really important to support local tourism entities that are run by local people. And when you have tour guides who are obviously local people, giving them a nice tip at the end, just trying to keep as much of your spending in the community as possible is really important.

What advice would you give to a person who is inspired to get involved with MSF?Honestly, donate. Most of our staff are locally hired, and 97 percent of our funding comes from private donors. So much of it is just from regular people giving, for example, 10 bucks a month.

This article was originally published in No. 31 of Globetrotting Magazine.

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Aren Bergstrom
Aren Bergstrom

Globetrotting Editor - You might say that Aren was destined to become a Globetrotter after his family took him to Germany two times before he was four. If that wasn’t enough, a term spent in Sweden as a young teenager and a trek across Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand confirmed that destiny. An independent writer, director, and film critic, Aren has travelled across Asia, Europe, and South America. His favourite travel experience was visiting the major cities of Japan’s largest island, Honshu, but his love for food, drink, and film will take him anywhere that boasts great art and culture.

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