By DAVID PUJOL
Ibrahim Younis, a 44-year-old Sudanese-born Tucsonan, has worked as a coordinator for Doctors Without Borders since 1997.
“To save a life, to feed people, to be able to make this change, it’s addictive,” Younis said during a Pima Community College presentation that drew students, faculty and community members. “When you’re back home, you’ll want to do it again.”
Younis grew up in the United Kingdom and in Belgium. He holds citizenship with three countries: Sudan, Belgium and the United States.
After obtaining his primary school education in Sudan and attending school in Europe, Younis enrolled at PCC two years ago. He hopes to transfer to the University of Arizona to continue studying political science.
Younis worked in the early ‘90s with a United Nations consortium called Operation Lifeline Sudan, handling and managing the food distribution logistics.
He then moved to Doctors Without Borders, which is also known by its European name of Médecins Sans Frontières.
He started with MSF as a logistician, and later became a logistics coordinator and then a program coordinator. He’s now worked as a manager in MSF’s European headquarters and has also traveled to more than 50 countries.
Much of his early MSF work focused on conflicts in Islamic countries, including Afghanistan, Iran and Somalia. He worked on the front lines in African areas where Boko Haram extremists were active.
His non-medical work with emergency units made him an emergency specialist, so he now concentrates on emergency preparedness and response for both human-caused and natural disasters.
“I find it sad that the kind of work he is doing is necessary, but I appreciate the work that he does,” said Elizabeth Moisin, a PCC nursing student who attended Younis’ presentation.
“I think it’s heartwarming that there are people who have the courage to go out there and do this kind of work,” she said.
Lizette Durazo, another PCC student who attended his talk, said she will consider working with a relief program like MSF in the future.
“To hear that there are people who risk their lives to save lives is miraculous, especially in the face of danger on the front lines,” she said.
Younis said 60 percent of his job involves gaining access and developing strategies. He must deal with politics, security and diplomacy while working with local authorities.
He has seen tragedy and loss throughout his time working with MSF, but said he continues to return because of its potential for good. When patients recover and start smiling, Younis said he knows MSF has made a difference.
“There are a lot of sad and happy memories, but in general the fact that you save lives gives you so much consciousness of the situation and the work you do,” he said. “And we do save lives, especially for children, pregnant women, the elderly and the wounded.”
He supports MSF’s belief in staying neutral, and said aide workers can’t differentiate by color, gender, age, religion or creed.
“Whatever comes on the table, you treat,” he said. “That, for me, is fundamental if you want to provide humanitarian assistance, especially in conflicts.”
Younis met his physician wife about five years ago through MSF. They now both live in Tucson with their two children.
He sees himself doing what is right no matter the danger. “I get to have that pleasure of making a difference in somebody’s life,” he said.
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