without borders: providing medical relief worldwide
Médecins Sans Frontières (also known as Doctors Without Borders or MSF)
delivers emergency aid to victims of armed conflict, epidemics, and
natural and man-made disasters, and to others who lack health
care due to social or geographical isolation.
MSF was founded in 1971 by a small group of French doctors who believed
that all people have the right to medical care and that the needs of
these people supersede respect for national borders. It was the first
non-governmental organization to both provide emergency medical assistance
and publicly bear witness to the plight of the populations they served.
A private, nonprofit organization, MSF is at the forefront of emergency
health care as well as care for populations suffering from endemic
diseases and neglect. MSF provides
primary health care, performs surgery, rehabilitates hospitals and clinics,
runs nutrition and sanitation programs, trains local medical personnel,
and provides mental health care.
Through longer-term programs, MSF treats chronic diseases such as tuberculosis,
malaria, sleeping sickness, and AIDS;
assists with the medical and psychological problems of marginalized
populations including street children and ethnic minorities; and brings
health care to remote, isolated areas where resources and training are
MSF unites direct medical care with a commitment to bearing witness
and speaking out against the underlying
causes of suffering.
Its volunteers protest violations of humanitarian
law on behalf of populations who have no voice, and bring the concerns
of their patients to public forums, such as the United Nations, governments,
and the media.
In a wide range of circumstances, MSF volunteers have spoken out against
atrocities they have witnessed--from Chechnya, to Angola, to Kosovo.
MSF is an international network with sections in 18 countries.
Each year, more than 2,500 volunteer doctors, nurses, other medical
professionals, logistics experts, water/sanitation engineers, and administrators
join 15,000 locally hired staff to provide medical aid in more than
MSF has built a strong logistical capability to support its medical
expertise, enabling its volunteers to work in the most remote or unstable
parts of the world. Teams arrive at a project site with prepackaged
medical kits so they can begin working immediately.
Custom-designed by MSF for specific field situations, geographic conditions,
and climates, a kit may contain a complete surgical theater, for example,
or all the supplies needed to treat hundreds of cholera patients. MSF
kits have been replicated by relief organizations worldwide.
bearing witness and speaking out
"We are by nature an organization that is unable to tolerate indifference.
We hope that by arousing awareness and a desire to understand, we will
also stir up indignation and stimulate action."
Rony Brauman, MD, Former President, MSF
Bearing witness to the plight of populations at risk is part of MSF's
mission, in the United States and worldwide. Whether giving testimony
at the United Nations or conducting an educational campaign aimed at
schoolchildren, the organization works to raise awareness of the plight
of the populations it serves.
Through its Access to Essential Medicines campaign, MSF is confronting
the difficulties faced by people in the developing world in obtaining
affordable, effective treatments for infectious diseases.
The organization has also launched public education projects to raise
awareness of the trauma faced by children in a war zone, the devastation
caused by malnutrition, and the plight of refugees.
MSF is an organization based on volunteerism. In helping to relieve
the suffering of others, the MSF volunteer not only gives freely of
his or her humanity, but creates a link of solidarity from his or her
home country to a population in need.
At times the sole international witness to a crisis situation, the MSF
volunteer plays a critical role in the communities where he or she works.
It is the independent nature of the volunteer's commitment that gives
special legitimacy to the testimony provided by MSF and that ensures
the organization's continued dynamism.
To maintain its operational independence and flexibility, MSF relies
on the general public for the majority of its operating funds.
Other financial support is provided by foundations, corporations, nonprofit
organizations, the U.S. and other governments, and international agencies.
The MSF international network collectively strives to direct at least
80 percent of its expenditures to program activities.
Doctors Without Borders
/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)