The year 2020 has brought unprecedented challenges both for all people and for Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) as an organisation. The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) had rapidly expanded across the globe and hardly any had been spared since it was declared as a pandemic in March 2020. Governments had to take every possible measure to respond to it. Similarly, our work was affected by its restrictions, compounded by the volatile situations in different communities. Whilst the pandemic continued, conflicts, violence, epidemics and natural disasters did not halt in places where we work; hostilities against humanitarian actions had never ceased. All these meant our work remained challenging.
As an emergency medical humanitarian organisation, we adapted our responses to address the challenges in front of us. We had committed people, funding and support to keep our regular projects running whilst scaling up our projects dedicated for COVID-19, as well as giving support to ministries of health. Hong Kong was the first place that MSF started a COVID-19 emergency response project, yet the unique social contexts here presented the team with numerous obstacles. They made huge efforts to be flexible in responding to the local difficulties, including close collaborations with local NGOs that had the knowledge of and the network with vulnerable groups in the city.
Emergencies are complex. While we strive to provide the best care to people in danger, we don't always get it right. We continually reflect on our role as part of our civil society here and abroad. On top of the pandemic, we saw a number instances of social unrest sparked in various cities and countries. Local organisations and their responders were first on the scene, while international organisations like MSF found many limitations. It is a good time for MSF staff, patients and supporters to think seriously about how we strike a balance between our capacity to respond and the availability of assistance, while keeping MSF relevant to the medical and humanitarian needs of the societies that need our solidarity.
Looking back at the work of MSF-Hong Kong over the year, we had been strengthening our collaborations with our neighbouring offices of MSF Japan and Australia to further expand the joint humanitarian spirit, while improving crisis response capacity in the Southeast Asia, East Asia and the Pacific region. Meanwhile, we made good use of our multicultural experience and diversity of perspectives as well as our Asian representatives within the wider MSF movement. The lessons that we learned during the year were the basis for MSF to identify our position in the medical humanitarian sector and the society at large, so that we can respond to the needs in the region for dignity and care.
Frankly, a lot of new situations are evolving, and the future is full of uncertainties and challenges, but we will nonetheless stay true to our mission and principles - to support the most vulnerable and neglected people in the world. This is possible because of the continued support of our donors, staff, association members and the range of people who are connected to us. You have enabled us to do better and kept us motivated throughout these difficult times. Last but not least, we would like to extend our respect and gratitude to all the frontline aid and health workers for their dedication and contributions to humanity regardless of all the risks in front of them. Kudos to all of you, wherever you are.
President, MSF Hong Kong Board
Dr. Shut-wah Kenneth Chan
Executive Director, MSF Hong Kong