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Reconstructing Lives. Victims of war in the Middle East and Médecins Sans Frontières


Vanja Kovačič is a Medical Anthropologist. After having worked for several years as a researcher at the Crash, she is now working for the Manson Unit in MSF UK.

Reconstructing Lives was published in January 2022 by Manchester University Press. The book is the result of extensive fieldwork, in collaboration with the Crash. Here is the presentation of the book and its contents, as well as a short introductory video.

This book attempts to establish a more holistic approach to the rehabilitation of war-injured civilians, one that adjusts to the patients' long-term needs. Vanja Kovačič not only offers an insight into the daily realities of patients during and after rehabilitation, but seeks to develop a new way to perceive, respect and involve them in health care.

Based on comprehensive interviews with patients and MSF staff, as well as extended field observations, Reconstructing lives follows Syrian and Iraqi war-injured civilians in their journey to recovery. From their improvised medical treatment in their home countries, to the MSF-run hospital in Amman Jordan, to their return home, Vanja Kovačič explores how individuals attempt to pick up the pieces of their previous lives, add new elements from their treatment and travel experiences, and finally establish a new reconstructed reality.

The book explores how the interaction between MSF staff and their patients contributes to the immense task of healing that awaits victims of war. The reader visits the intimate medical and domestic spaces that usually remain closed to the outside observer, spaces rich with human contact, perceptions, emotions, conflicts and reconciliations.


  • Introduction
  • Anthropological research at Médecins Sans Frontières' Reconstructive Surgery Programme
  • In the Médecins Sans Frontières hospital
  • Patients and their history
  • Patients' reflections on care at the Reconstructive Surgery Programme
  • Patients' views on the quality of life
  • Reflection on the rehabilitation of civilian victims of war and beyond
  • Epilogue


To cite this content :
Vanja Kovacic, Reconstructing Lives. Victims of war in the Middle East and Médecins Sans Frontières, 1 April 2022, URL : https://msf-crash.org/index.php/en/publications/medicine-and-public-health/reconstructing-lives-victims-war-middle-east-and-medecins

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