MSF was founded in 1971 in Paris by a group of journalists and doctors. Today, we are a worldwide movement of nearly 65,000 people.
All of its members agree to honour the following principles
- MSF 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.
- MSF 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 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.
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) was founded in 1971 in France by a group of doctors and journalists in the wake of war and famine in Biafra, Nigeria. Their aim was to establish an independent organisation that focuses on delivering emergency medicine aid quickly, effectively and impartially.
Three hundred volunteers made up the organisation when it was founded: doctors, nurses and other staff, including the 13 founding doctors and journalists.
MSF is officially created on 22 December 1971. At the time, 300 volunteers make up the organisation: doctors, nurses and other staff, including the 13 founding doctors and journalists.
MSF’s first mission in 1972, is in Managua, Nicaragua’s capital, and follows an earthquake which destroyed most of the city and killed between 10,000 and 30,000 people.
In 1974, MSF sets up a relief mission to help the people of Honduras after Hurricane Fifi causes major flooding and kills thousands of people.
From 1976 and until 1984, MSF is present in Beirut and other cities in Lebanon to treat all war-wounded. Each day, the team treats patients injured by shrapnel or bullets. Broken limbs and burns are also looked after. Materials and tools are insufficient or inadequate for the medical teams; there are no X-rays, no electric instruments, no ventilator, and no possibility to conduct extensive medical exams. The capacity to do blood transfusions is also limited.
From this point, the new “realist” leadership of MSF - spearheaded by Claude Malhuret and Rony Brauman - helps transform MSF into the professional organisation it is today.
In August, 50 people die each day of hunger, while thousands wait for food distribution. It takes months for the government to call it a “famine”. When the government starts to forcibly displace populations and divert humanitarian aid, MSF teams know that there is no other possible choice but to speak out. In December 1985, one of the two MSF sections working in the country is expelled.
MSF is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize “in recognition of the organisation’s pioneering humanitarian work on several continents” and to honour our medical staff who have treated tens of millions of people. Using his acceptance speech, Dr James Orbinski, president of the then-MSF International Council, speaks directly to the then-Russian leader Boris Yeltsin and condemns Russian violence against civilians in Chechnya.
MSF is a founding partner in a new initiative to undertake drug development for neglected diseases, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi).
MSF is a founding partner in a new initiative to undertake drug development for neglected diseases, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi).In order to cope with the constant growth of its activities, budgets and sections, MSF devotes an entire year to a series of internal consultations and debates. The result is a series of plans to improve MSF’s decision-making processes and governance structures as a movement and as an association. La Mancha Agreement outlines aspects of our action on which we agree and feel are indispensable.
In June MSF announces that it will no longer take funds from the European Union and Member States, in opposition to their damaging deterrence policies against refugees and migrants and intensifying attempts to push people and their suffering away from European shores. This decision takes immediate effect and is applied to our projects worldwide.
The Lebanon office was created in response to a growing need for expanding MSF's institutional presence in the MENA region.
We offer assistance to people based on need. It doesn’t matter which country they are from, which religion they belong to, or what their political affiliations are. We give priority to those in the most serious and immediate danger.
Our decision to offer assistance is based on our evaluation of medical needs, independent of political, economic or religious interests. Our independence is rooted in our funding; over 95 per cent comes from individual private donors giving small amounts. We strive to freely evaluate needs, access populations without restriction, and to directly deliver the aid we provide.
We do not take sides in armed conflicts nor support the agendas of warring parties. Sometimes we are not present on all sides to the conflict; this may be because access is denied to us, or due to insecurity, or because the main needs of the population are already covered.
We take responsibility of accounting for our actions to our patients and donors, and being transparent on the choices we make. Evaluations, critical reviews and debate on our field practices, our public positioning and on wider humanitarian issues, are necessary to improve what we do.
Neutrality is not synonymous with silence. Our proximity to people in distress implies a duty to raise awareness on their plight to ultimately help improve their situation. We may seek to bring attention to extreme need and suffering, when access to lifesaving medical care is hindered, when our teams witness extreme acts of violence, when crises are neglected, or when the provision of aid is abused.