HCRI Inaugural Lecture 2016: John Borton – The 20 Year Life of Merlin 1993-2013
John Borton, Senior Research Associate at the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) and HCRI Honorary Lecturer, delivered our 2016 Inaugural Lecture. He spoke about the history of Medical Emergency Relief International (Merlin).
Merlin was founded by three friends in 1993 as a UK humanitarian agency specialising in the provision of frontline health care in areas of conflict and natural disaster, and in strengthening national health systems in fragile states. From its establishment Merlin grew rapidly to become a significant actor in many international humanitarian operations including Rwanda, Afghanistan, Chechnya, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sierra Leone, Liberia, Pakistan, Haiti, Myanmar and Libya.
Merlin played an important role in developing responses to diseases such as tuberculosis (TB), Lassa Fever and malaria. It made a significant contribution to the evolution of the United Nations’ Cluster System for coordinating humanitarian operations, and to international policy on health care provision and approaches to health system strengthening in fragile states. In 2011 its annual income peaked at £69 million. But, from then on, the organisation experienced financial difficulties and in 2013 ‘joined forces’ with Save the Children and most of its programmes transitioned to Save the Children – a process that was completed in early 2015.
John was joined for this lecture by Paula Sansom MBE (Deputy Health Director – Programmes at GOAL UK), and Jenny Chapman and Dr Eleanor Davey from HCRI.