No more Acupuncturists Without Borders?

One of the more depressing things I’ve seen coming from various practitioners of quackery is a tendency for them to mimic Médecins Sans Frontières (in English, Doctors Without Borders). You know Doctors Without Borders, don’t you? It’s a fantastic organization that brings volunteer physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals into disaster areas and war zones in order to bring health care to people who desperately need it regardless of politics or ideology. Unfortunately, because MSF is such an admirable group, quacks with good intentions but no effective remedies have mimicked its methods, dropping practitioners of various forms of woo into disaster areas.

Examples are not hard to find. For example, there is Homeopaths Without Borders, which brought homeopaths to Haiti in the wake of the earthquake of 2010. Then Scientologists inflicted themselves on the long-suffering Haitians and made quite a mess of things as well. Then it was acupuncturists who decided that they’d lend a hand, even trying to provide anesthesia for amputations. I later learned that there is indeed a group called Acupuncturists Without Borders (AWB, which, given how old I am, reminds me more than anything else of “Average White Band,” but that’s what I get for having come of age in the late 1970s and early 1980s). In any case, this is the goal of the group:

We are currently working on making community acupuncture part of the standard of care in the immediate aftermath of disasters, alongside traditional medical interventions. AWB is committed to treating all who have been affected by disaster and conflict including survivors, first responders, emergency personnel and other care providers. The community model for treatment allows those treated to experience relief together from stress and trauma. When the whole group feels calm and quiet, hope, determination and resiliency rises powerfully within it.

It turns out, surprisingly enough, that perhaps AWB is about as popular as the Average White Band is now, 30 years after its prime. Just up on AWB’s Facebook page in October was this message:

AWB is having to cut back on our staffing temporarily until we receive more funds, donations and membership dues. We now currently have the equivalent of one full time staff position running the entire organization. We hope this will change soon. At the same time, the need for our services, the numbers of inquiries and people interested in our work, and the unbelievably powerful disaster relief programs we’ve been able to support, are at an all-time high.

Please consider how you can help now – with a donation, a monthly pledge, finding others to donate, renewing your membership, putting out an AWB Donation Kit in your waiting room, or whatever may suit you if you want this important work to continue. And if you can do it today, we would greatly appreciate that. Please go to to donate or sign up as a new or renewing member. Thank you!

Maybe there is hope after all.