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The Princess of Asturias Foundation

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Médicins sans Frontières and Medicus Mundi

Prince of Asturias Award for Concord 1991

Taking into account the effective contribution made by both organisations to alleviate the disease situation in those countries worst hit by injustice.

Médicins sans Frontières

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Médicins sans Frontères is an international charitable organisation which brings doctors, and members of the health and logistics professions (professionals in different fields) together to give their aid to the victims of natural disasters, mass accidents, war situations and to populations which live in precarious situations.

It has its origins in an experienced group of doctors, mainly of French nationality, during the Biafran war, at the end of the Sixties.

In 1981, it was the first organisation to come to the aid of the victims of the Afghanistan war. Its world-wide fame dates from this time: the speed of MSF´s intervention means that it is often on the scene before the press. Since then it has expanded its activity to every continent, with an especially important presence in Africa and Central America.

It currently has sections in France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Greece and Spain. Each section is independent and carries on its own projects. In 1991 an International Council and a co-ordinating structure were established, with headquarters in Brussels. The presidency of the Council is rotated with six-monthly terms. Fifty percent of their resources come from private donations and the other half from public donors, among which the European Community is outstanding.

The professionalism and effectiveness of MSF´s work is reflected in the prestige which it enjoys with both private donors and the large institutional donors. The European Community systematically calls upon MSF to carry out its humanitarian aid all over the world.

In disaster situations such as, for example, the earthquakes in Mexico, El Salvador, Armenia or Iran, the seaquake in Bangladesh, the floods in Bolivia, Peru and The Sudan, the cholera epidemic in Somalia, volcanic eruption in Armero, hurricane in Nicaragua ... MSF sets running what they call the European Emergency Intervention Unit, in which all the countries come to an agreement in order to be able to work together.

MSF organises dispensaries and hospitals, carries out vaccination and contagious disease prevention campaigns, such as water and waste treatment and the training of local personnel. They take charge of rehabilitating local hospitals and training native sanitary personnel, so that, once they have gone, the system will keep running. This action is carried out with the co-operation of the local Ministry of Health, but if some conflict or war prevents this, and a given population lacks any kind of health care, they act, even clandestinely, by virtue of the right to humanitarian aid.

Medicus Mundi

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Medicus Mundi International was founded on the 8th December 1962 in Aachen, during a meeting between doctors and charitable associations in charge of projects in the Third World.

It may be said that the general aim of this organisation is to promote health, without discrimination, transcending national frontiers and forming part of community development in the countries where it provides its services.

It currently has more than 2,500 co-operators stationed all over the world. It is recognised by the World Health Organisation, taking part in both the technical discussions and in the World Assembly, to which it regularly sends delegates and speakers.

Formed of seven branches - Medicus Mundi Belgium, France, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and Germany, as well as other affiliated organisations - it is governed by a General Assembly, which meets once a year, taking turns between the different countries. There also exists a managing committee which meets periodically. As well as the General Secretariat, each branch has its own secretariat which is in contact with the General one.

Whatever its mode of intervention is, Medicus Mundi continues to promote primary health care. Therefore:

it supports the initiatives of local charities in Third World countries which coincide with its objectives;

it joins integrated, overall long-term sanitary programmes and parallel educational programmes;

it relies on the support of native personnel from the country in question and places special importance to their training, so that they can take on total responsibility for the programmes; and

it works in co-operation with the authorities of the country.

Faithful to this spirit, the objective of the national branches is to group together all the doctors, pharmacists and other health professionals, and also anyone else who wants to join the undertaking of co-operating with sanitary objectives in countries considered as under-developed or developing.

In Spain, they have co-operated since 1980 with the General Directorate of International Technical Co-operation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and with the European Community. They also have, through different delegations, the support of the Spanish Regions and municipalities for specific projects.

They carry on their projects thanks to the contributions of private individuals, as members, in the form of donations, and also receive the support of associations for specific projects.

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