Ask an Expert with Kenneth Lavelle

How is MSF helping people survive the COVID-19 crisis? And what should stay with us after the crisis is over?

Kenneth Lavelle, MSF’s Deputy Director of Operations, answered these questions and more when he joined our CEO, Per Heggenes, for our first Ask an Expert session.

2 April 2020

During the event, we had some questions that Kenneth didn’t have time to answer. He kindly took the time to answer them afterwards.

Q: How can we as individuals show solidarity with your staff and patients in practical ways?
A: It’s a great question and here below are a few suggestions from our communications team.  And I can assure you that all messages of support to our teams are highly appreciated:

  • Follow our work on our social networks platforms and share MSF posts/messages/concerns with your network.
  • Send emails of encouragement using the contact details of your local MSF office (section donor care); these messages are always shared with staff in the countries where we work.
  • Enroll to our e-newsletter – find details in the MSF home page of your country of residence.
  • Become a monthly donor.

Here are some useful links, and for the MSF offices throughout the world you can look on the MSF International Website:

Thanks again for your question and your support.

Q: Do you also expect longer term health issues in developing / displacement contexts as a result of (the preventive measures and) the pandemic – as food security and livelihoods as threatened, and as health care systems will not be available for people suffering from NCDs who will not get the care they need (in time)?
A: There will certainly be negative impacts in the short and medium term as health providers, including MSF will have to take difficult decisions to stop some activities to be able to manage COVID related interventions.

The COVID response will consume much of the time and energy of our teams and with problems with supply and staffing we will not be able to manage everything in the short term.  If the supply pipeline for food distributions managed by the World Health Programme are interrupted we will definitely increases in the cases of malnutrition.  Likewise, any major impact on the economies will see people lose their livelihoods, so they will prioritise food and shelter and therefore they may choose not to seek health care.

In many places where we work the governments do not provide free health care, so people will not seek care or they will find alternatives such as in the local pharmacy where the quality of drugs and care is not always optimal.  If medical structures are overwhelmed, if medical staff are not properly protected and become infected, many people will go without care.

I am sure that there are more examples, but at all levels it is clear that there will be negative impacts.  But, in the longer term I would hope that all governments and institutions will use this outbreak as a reminder that medical care, accessible to all, is an absolute priority for the well being of their people and the wellbeing of society as a whole.