Over 5,500 kilometres, 10 states and 112 days - this doctor from the Venice of the East took out an adventurous cycle expedition against all odds from Kashmir to Kerala to raise funds for treating the poor.
Dr Unni Karunakara, the outgoing International President of Doctors Without Borders or Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF), had taken up this challenge to create awareness among the public on the activities of the humanitarian organisation and to raise funds.
The 49-year-old kick-started his expedition at Srinagar on October 12 last year and pedalled more than 5,500 km, stopping at 65 points, and reached Thiruvananthapuram, the final destination, last Friday. He had been setting out on his cycle every day at 6 am and by 11 am he managed to clock around 60 kilometres.
“I feel I have come full circle,” says Dr Unni, who raised `52.70 lakh during the expedition, named ‘Unnicycles.’
Born in Alappuzha, Dr Unni graduated from Kasturba Medical College, Manipal. An avid cyclist, he had earlier done a round trip from Delhi to Leh and Srinagar to Delhi in 1988 when he was 25. He had also worked in various countries as part of MSF’s medical teams in Ethiopia, Azerbaijan, South Sudan, Brazil and Bangladesh.
MSF is an international medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics and natural disasters in around 70 countries. In 2012, MSF medical teams worldwide provided over 80 lakh outpatient consultations, helped deliver 1.85 lakh babies, conducted more than 80,000 surgical procedures and vaccinated more than seven lakh people against measles.
MSF has extended treatment to thousands of patients in India since its launch in the country in 1999. At present, it runs eight projects in the country.
Dr Unni is an assistant clinical professor at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, and after completing the present journey, he is set to head back to his teaching assignment. — Express Features