Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Medicine Sans Frontiers

...is an international humanitarian aid & relief agency, committed to providing medical aid wherever needed, irrespective of creed, religion, colour or nationality.

However this is a rather crowded space. You already have The International Federation of The Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies - and (in a Monty-Pythonesque situation) The International Committee of the Red Cross ("What did they ever do for us??").

There is Oxfam. International Save the Children Fund is out there doing good around the globe. The UNHCR (with their Swiss-based website - clearly a tax dodge) are muscling in on the action as well. UNICEF, The WHO, International Rescue Committee - they all dabble in this "helping people in need" business... And the list goes on, and on and on....

So - if disaster befalls you, a plethora of agencies are out there working to bring you help and relief. Your home has been washed away, all your meagre possessions are lost, but you know the big wide world is caring for you and trying its best to help you.

Finally, the helicopter arrives, and a safari-suited angel of mercy descends to pluck you out of your bottomless well of despair, smiles benignly at you and says "alllo allo!". And you realize then that your luck is still on the wane....

If its The UNHCR, The Red Cross, any of the others - "Hi - I bring Help" actually means "I have the resources of a charity fundraising effort where we have money donated from every single country in the world - the entire global population has contributed to what we are bringing to you today"

But, get rescued by Medicine Sans Frontiers and its not quite the same. "Bonjour - voila - the population of France, 15% of Belgium, 26% of Switzerland - oh, and three other micro-sized islands in the South Pacific France used to own (before we blew them to sh-t in a series of illegal nuclear tests in the 1960's) could manage to scrape together for vous."

And - this bottomless well of generous donations - what will it have bought you?

If its money channeled through Oxfam - every $1 given = enough grain to feed a family for a week. If its the UNHCR, you not only get the grain, you also get a share in some "don't-say-looted" Nazi war treasures held on your behalf by a highly tax-efficient trust fund who's head office features excellent uninterrupted views over Lake Neuchatel and the Matterhorn.

But, if its Medicine Sans Frontiers - every $1 given gets turned into 0.86 Euros, losing 3% exchange rate in the process ("we cannot use that American currency, oh non!"), a further 28 cents goes to subsidize some fat farmer sat supping his latest vintage in the worlds most unproductive - because its still using historic artisonal production methods - vineyard in the Loire Valley, 15 cents gets spent on a damn big monument in central Paris to thank the founder of MSF, and 43 cents makes it to actually buying enough grain to feed a family of one for one day - because "vous wouldn't want nous to be serving any of this cheap non-authentic mass produced bread would you now..?"

So, its not the being saved - its who saves you that counts!

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