Overview

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WHAT IS MSF?

MSF is one of the world's leading independent organisations for medical humanitarian aid, giving quality medical care to people caught in crisis regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation. Every day, more than 27,000 MSF field staff provide assistance around the world 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.

In 2008, MSF carried out over 8 million outpatient consultations and dealt with over 312,000 inpatients. MSF teams had 230,000 HIV/AIDS patients under care, vaccinated 2.7 million people against measles or meningitis, treated more than 1.2 million people for malaria, and 1.4 million children against severe malnutrition.  There were 100,000 deliveries including caesarean sections, 130,000 mental health individual consultations and 50,000 major surgical interventions.

Formed in 1971, by a group of doctors and journalists aiming to establish an independent organisation focused on emergency medicine and speaking out about the cause of human suffering, MSF's work is based on the humanitarian principles of medical ethics and remains committed to bearing witness and speaking out.


MSF has offices in 19 countries, supporting projects in around 65 countries. There are five 'operational centres' which directly control field projects, deciding when, where and what aid is necessary and when to end a programme. The primary functions of the remaining offices are to recruit volunteers, raise funds and advocate on behalf of populations in danger and raise private funds to maintain MSF's financial independence.
MSF field staff includes doctors, nurses, administrators, epidemiologists, laboratory technicians, mental health professionals, logistics and water and sanitation experts. The majority of our teams are made up of national field staff from the countries where the crises are occurring with ten percent made up of international field staff. All of MSF's members agree to honor the principles set out in the MSF Charter.

MSF introduction in 6 minutes

MSF Principles

MSF's work is based on the humanitarian principles of medical ethics.

MSF is impartial, committed to bringing quality medical care to people caught in crisis regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation.

MSF is independent. Ninety percent of MSF's overall funding comes from private sources, not governments. This funding structure leaves MSF teams on the ground free to define operational priorities with interventions based on needs alone, not on political, economic, religious or social agendas.

MSF is neutral. The organisation does not take sides in armed conflicts, provides care on the basis of needs alone, and pushes for increased independent access to victims of conflict as required under international humanitarian law.

MSF is transparent and accountable. Every year, MSF provides detailed activity and financial reports, including audited and certified accounts. MSF strives to spend as much as possible for operations and to rationalize other type of expenditures such as fundraising and administration. In 2008, 81% of overall international expenditures were spent for the Social Missions of MSF (direct expenditures for operations, operational support, temoignage – advocacy, other humanitarian activities), while 13% were dedicated to fundraising and 6% for Management, general and Administration.
 
Our teams in the field often witness violence, atrocities, and neglect which escape wider international attention. MSF remains committed to speaking out publicly in an effort to bring forgotten crises to public attention, to alert the public to abuses occurring beyond the headlines, to criticise the inadequacies of the aid system, and to challenge the diversion of humanitarian aid for political interests.

Charter

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) 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 honor 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

MSF was formed in 1971 by a group of French doctors who had previously worked with famine victims of Nigeria's civil war. They were frustrated by government interference in humanitarian aid and felt they were being silenced when they wanted to tell the world about the atrocities they witnessed. To speak out about the plight of victims, and seeking an independent, impartial way to provide care where they saw the greatest need, they joined a group of French journalists who were committed to the same principles and founded MSF in 1971. They aimed to establish an independent organisation that would focus on emergency medicine, speak out about the causes of human suffering and cut through red tape to deliver aid quickly and effectively.

In 1999, MSF received the Nobel Peace Prize.

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