Everyday heroism

A nurse with MSF, Alison Criado-Perez, blogs about her next job.

The phone wakes me early on the morning of my departure. I’m heading for Malta, to join up with the MSF/MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station) team on the Phoenix, rescuing people attempting to cross the Mediterranean in leaky, un-seaworthy vessels.

It seems that yesterday yet another leaky, unseaworthy vessel was the cause of another tragedy. “We may have to reroute you to Rome,” John, our logistician in Malta, tells me. “The team has gone out on a rescue, a big one, over 40 dead… we’re not sure yet where the boat will land.”

I think of the terror the migrants must have felt as their boat filled with water, or capsized – I haven’t heard the full story yet. And I know that only desperation would have forced them onto that perilous journey across the deep waters of the Med. Desperation with their lives in Somalia, Eritrea, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya: war-torn, anarchic, little-hope places.

She thinks back on her time working with MSF with Syrian refugees in Turkey, and refugees from sub-Saharan Africa she met in the aftermath of the Libyan conflict.

I think back to my time in South Sudan where people, bombed out of their homes in Blue Nile State in Sudan, had trekked through the bush for up to three months, living on berries, arriving in South Sudan so dehydrated and malnourished that dozens just died on the side of the road.

It is with the plight of these refugees in mind, these people whose faces I remember so well, who I think of as I set off on this trip to help rescue yet more hundreds, thousands of people who, through no fault of their own, are forced to leave their countries.

She considers it a duty to help them rather than lock ourselves up in Fortress Britain or [insert your country’s name here].

I don’t know exactly what lies ahead of me. I hope I’m prepared, physically and mentally, for this trip. I’ve done a fairly arduous sea-safety training, which entailed me leaping from a height into water, dressed in a survival suit, and clambering into a wobbly life-raft. But I don’t think anything – not even seeing people dying miserably from Ebola – can prepare one for finding 52 people dead in the hold from asphyxiation, as my colleagues did recently.

But I’m glad that I can be there to help these desperate people with my medical skills in whatever way I can.

Now that’s walking the walk.

Updating to add:

MSF tweeted a photo of her on the job:

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