Doctors Without Borders
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an independent international medical humanitarian organization that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural or man-made disasters, or exclusion from health care in more than 70 countries.
Each year, MSF doctors, nurses, logisticians, water-and-sanitation experts, administrators, and other medical and non-medical professionals depart on more than 3,800 field assignments. They work alongside more than 22,500 locally hired staff to provide medical care.
In emergencies and their aftermath, MSF provides health care, rehabilitates and runs hospitals and clinics, performs surgery, battles epidemics, carries out vaccination campaigns, operates feeding centers for malnourished children, and offers mental health care. When needed, MSF also constructs wells and dispenses clean drinking water, and provides shelter materials like blankets and plastic sheeting.
Through longer-term programs,
MSF treats patients with infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, sleeping sickness, and HIV/AIDS, and provides medical and psychological care to marginalized groups such as street children.
MSF was founded in 1971 as a nongovernmental organization to both provide emergency medical assistance and bear witness publicly to the plight of the people it assists. A private nonprofit association, MSF is an international network with sections in 19 countries.
Responding to Emergencies
MSF is often one of the first humanitarian organizations to
arrive at the scene of an
emergency. Its large-scale
logistical capacity ensures that
MSF emergency teams hit the ground with the specialized
medical kits and equipment they need to start saving lives immediately.
Custom-designed by MSF for specific field situations, geographic conditions, and climates, a kit may contain a complete operating room, for example, or all of the supplies needed to treat hundreds of cholera patients. MSF kits and medical protocols have been replicated by relief organizations worldwide.
MSF has proven expertise in the field of epidemiology and is often called on to monitor, diagnose, and control outbreaks of diseases, such as cholera, meningitis, and measles.
Independent Humanitarian Action
MSF's decision to intervene in any country or crisis is based solely on an independent assessment of people's needs — not on political, economic, or religious interests. MSF does not take sides or intervene according to the demands of governments or warring parties.
MSF volunteers frequently work in the most remote or dangerous parts of the world. When crises unfold, they make themselves and their skills available on short notice, usually dedicating six to twelve months to each assignment. Their expenses are covered and they receive a modest stipend.
MSF teams are composed of international volunteers and skilled local staff. Together, they work closely with national medical professionals and cooperate with other aid organizations.
Speaking Out to End Suffering
MSF unites direct medical care with a commitment to speaking out against the causes of suffering and the obstacles to providing effective assistance. MSF volunteers raise the concerns of their patients with governments, the United Nations, other international bodies, the general public, and the media. In a wide range of circumstances, MSF volunteers have spoken out against violations of international humanitarian law they have witnessed — from Chechnya to Sudan.
Based on its field experience, MSF is addressing obstacles preventing people in the developing world from obtaining
affordable, effective treatments for diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. Through its Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines, MSF is advocating to lower drug prices, stimulate research and development of new treatments, and overcome trade and other barriers to accessing treatments.
In the United States and worldwide, MSF raises public awareness of the plight of people at risk. The organization sends field volunteers and staff to speak at international and national conferences, and arranges informational events and traveling exhibitions. Special public education projects have addressed the stark realities of living without access to medicines, the devastation caused by malnutrition, and the hardships of life in a refugee camp.
Financial Independence and Accountability
To maintain its operational independence and flexibility, MSF relies on the general public for nearly 80 percent of its operating funds. The remaining 20 percent of funds come from international agencies and governments. The organization counted more than 3.1 million individuals, foundations, corporations, and nonprofit organizations among its donors worldwide in 2004. In 2004, MSF's worldwide income was $568 million. In the United States, nearly 380,000 private donors contributed more than $91 million to MSF-USA.
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