Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international humanitarian aid organisation that provides emergency medical assistance to populations in danger in more than 60 countries.
Médecins Sans Frontières is a private international association. The association is made up mainly of doctors and health sector workers and is also open to all other professions which might help in achieving its aims. All of its members agree to honour the following principles:
Médecins Sans Frontières provides assistance to populations in distress, to victims of natural or man-made disasters and to victims of armed conflict. They do so irrespective of race, religion, creed or political convictions.
Médecins Sans Frontières observes neutrality and impartiality in the name of universal medical ethics and the right to humanitarian assistance and claims full and unhindered freedom in the exercise of its functions.
Members undertake to respect their professional code of ethics and to maintain complete independence from all political, economic or religious powers. As volunteers, members understand the risks and dangers of the missions they carry out and make no claim for themselves or their assigns for any form of compensation other than that which the association might be able to afford them.
History and Principles
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international medical humanitarian organization created by doctors and journalists in France in 1971.
Today, MSF provides aid in nearly 60 countries to people whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe, primarily due to armed conflict, epidemics, malnutrition, exclusion from health care, or natural disasters. MSF provides independent, impartial assistance to those most in need. MSF reserves the right to speak out to bring attention to neglected crises, to challenge inadequacies or abuse of the aid system, and to advocate for improved medical treatments and protocols.
In 1999, MSF received the Nobel Peace Prize. When MSF was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999, the organisation announced the money would go towards raising awareness of and fighting against neglected diseases.
MSF's work is based on the humanitarian principles of medical ethics and impartiality. The organization is committed to bringing quality medical care to people caught in crisis regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation.
MSF operates independently of any political, military, or religious agendas. Medical teams conduct evaluations on the ground to determine a population's medical needs before opening programs. The key to MSF’s ability to act independently in response to a crisis is its independent funding. Ninety percent of MSF's overall funding comes from private sources, not governments. In 2008, MSF had 3.7 million individual donors and private funders worldwide.
MSF is neutral. The organization does not take sides in armed conflicts, provides care on the basis of need alone, and pushes for increased independent access to victims of conflict as required under international humanitarian law.
MSF's principles of action are described in the organization's 1971 founding charter, which established a framework for its activities.
Bearing Witness & Speaking Out
MSF medical teams often witness violence, atrocities, and neglect in the course of their work, largely in regions that receive scant international attention. At times, MSF may speak out publicly in an effort to bring a forgotten crisis to public attention, to alert the public to abuses occurring beyond the headlines, to criticize the inadequacies of the aid system, or to challenge the diversion of humanitarian aid for political interests.
In 1985, MSF spoke out against the Ethiopian government's forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of its population; took the unprecedented step of calling for an international military response to the 1994 Rwandan genocide; condemned the Serbian massacre of civilians at Srebrenica in 1995; denounced the Russian bombardment of the Chechen capital, Grozny in 1999; and called for international attention to the crisis in Darfur in 2004 and 2005 at the United Nations Security Council.
In 2007, MSF called for international attention to the increased targeting of civilians in conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Chad, and Somalia; advocated for the widespread adoption of new protocols for the treatment of malnutrition to include the use of ready-to-use foods; challenged pharmaceutical company Novartis's court case opposing the production of generic medicines in India, which produces an estimated 80 percent of the developing world's medicines; and spoke out against the plan of the governments of Thailand and Laos threatened to forcibly return nearly 8,000 Hmong refugees to Laos.
MSF medical teams on the ground are in constant dialogue with local authorities, warring parties, and other aid agencies in an attempt to ensure the best possible medical care for patients and their communities and to reinforce the organization's operational independence.
Who is MSF?
Who is MSF?
On any one day, more than 27,000 committed individuals representing dozens of nationalities can be found providing assistance to people caught in crises around the world.
They are doctors, nurses, logistics experts, administrators, epidemiologists, laboratory technicians, mental health professionals, and others who work together in accordance with MSF's guiding principles of humanitarian action and medical ethics.
MSF field staff are supported by their colleagues in 19 offices around the world. The vast majority of MSF's aid workers are from the communities where the crises are occurring, with ten percent of teams made up of international staff, including more than 200 aid workers from the US in 2007.
Quality Medical Care
MSF rejects the idea that poor countries deserve third-rate medical care and strives to provide high-quality care to patients and to improve the organization's practices. Through the Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines and, in recent years, in partnership with the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative, this work has helped lower the price of HIV/AIDS treatment and has stimulated research and development for medicines to treat malaria and neglected diseases like sleeping sickness and kala azar.
MSF is an international movement made up of 19 associative organizations: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States. Each association is responsible to a Board of Directors elected by its members (MSF's current and former field staff members) during an annual general assembly. Thanks to this large network, MSF has considerable financial, human, and logistical resources.