What We Do

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Doctors Without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)  was established in 1971 by a small group of French doctors who had worked in Biafra. Upon their return, they were determined to find a way to respond rapidly and effectively to public health emergencies, with complete independence from political, economic and religious influences.

Today, MSF is one of the world's leading independent international medical relief organisations, working in around 65 countries worldwide and with operational centres and national offices in 19 countries.

Our mandate concerns emergency relief, and the principles we honour while carrying out our work are contained in the MSF Charter. We launch our operations in areas where there is no medical infrastructure or where the existing one cannot withstand the pressure to which it is subjected. In most cases, relief programs change to rehabilitation projects that may run for several years after the most urgent needs have been met.

For more than 40 years, we have been providing medical help to people caught in many kinds of catastrophes, including armed conflicts, disasters such as floods and earthquakes, epidemics of disease and malnutrition crises. All these situations call for rapid response with specialised medical and logistical help. We are renowned for our quick response and efficient, effective work in the toughest emergencies. Beyond acute crisis, we also intervene in times that call for a less urgent type of action, for instance, in chronic refugees situations, areas of chronic instability, and in periods following a conflict or disaster. The action we take comes in multiple forms:

  • Emergency public healthcare, including medicine and surgery
  • Mass vaccination campaigns
  • Water and sanitation systems
  • Therapeutic and supplementary nutrition
  • Distribution of drugs and supplies
  • Training and health education
  • Organisation or rehabilitation of health structures
  • Medical assistance within existing health structures

We observe impartiality in the name of medical ethics and the right to humanitarian assistance. To ensure this independence, the majority of our funding for projects comes from donations from the public, as well as from corporations and foundations. Additional funding comes from national governments and international institutions, such as the Canadian International Development Agency, European Community and various bodies of the United Nations.

In carrying out humanitarian assistance, we act as witnesses and will speak out, in private or in public, about the critical needs of the people we help. In doing so, we seek to alleviate human suffering, to protect life and health, and to restore and ensure respect for human beings and their dignity.