A Kinlough-native, scientist Barrie Rooney, is amongst those featured in a high-profile photography exhibition taking place as part of the first ever MSF Ireland Week, which runs from 23rd to 30th September 2012.
The week is being organised by the Irish office of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors Without Borders), a medical humanitarian organisation that provides independent medical aid to victims of war, disasters and disease outbreaks in nearly 70 countries throughout the world.
Barrie Rooney features in ‘Taking Action Saving Lives’, a photography exhibition that will run in the Powerscourt Centre and Fixx Coffeehouse in Dublin throughout the week. Ms Rooney is a laboratory scientist who is currently based in Kent in the UK.
She has volunteered with MSF on a number of occasions: in the Central African Republic, Chad and the Republic of Congo and is a specialist in diagnosing and treating a neglected tropical disease called Human African Trypanosomiasis, more commonly known as ‘Sleeping Sickness’. She is a member of MSF’s mobile Sleeping Sickness team, which can be deployed at short notice whenever MSF hears of an outbreak or epidemic. As well as treating victims of the disease, the group also trains local people wherever they work, so they acquire the skills to treat Sleeping Sickness within their own communities.
Commenting on her work with MSF, Ms Rooney said: “I got involved in MSF because I realised there were a lot of neglected diseases – big companies weren’t developing drugs to combat them because they weren’t an issue in the developed world. In addition, people in remote areas weren’t getting access to even the most basic of medications… There are lots of challenges when you’re working with MSF: very basic facilities; you’re on the move all the time; living out of tents; eating local food. But I’m a farmer’s daughter from the west of Ireland, so I’m used to being adaptable and I can cope with a variety of situations.”
In addition to the photography exhibition in which Ms Rooney is featured, MSF Ireland Week will also see a number of free events taking place around Ireland. One of the highlights of the week will be a unique cholera tent roadshow, whereby members of the public will have an opportunity to experience firsthand the type of work MSF does overseas by visiting a simulated cholera treatment centre.
A cholera tent – a replica of those used in real-life cholera outbreaks, such as those that occurred recently in Haiti, Pakistan and Zimbabwe – will be pitched in various locations throughout the country during the week. Treatment beds and equipment will be on display, along with iPads on which visitors can engage with video footage from MSF projects around the world. The cholera tent will be staffed by MSF volunteers, who will share their experiences of working overseas, answer questions and give visitors the chance to find out first-hand about MSF’s lifesaving work.
Another highlight of MSF Ireland Week will be the Irish premiere of ‘Access to the Danger Zone’, a new documentary, narrated by Daniel Day-Lewis, which follows the work of MSF in Kenya, Afghanistan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. President Michael D. Higgins will be the guest of honour at the premiere screening in Dublin today (Wednesday, September 26).
The full programme of events for the week is available at www.msf.ie or www.facebook.com/MSFIrelandWeek.