Thursday, August 15, 2013
Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which pulled out of Somalia on
Wednesday after 22 years operating in the war-torn country, is one of
the biggest medical humanitarian organisations in the world.
The story of the organisation began three years before its official
birth on December 21, 1971 when a team of French physicians and
journalists, including humanitarian icon Bernard Kouchner, denounced
what they described as a genocide in secessionist Biafra, in Nigeria.
The young doctors, there under the auspices of the International
Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), decided to act in their own name
while all emergency humanitarian assistance was being funneled through
The campaign in Nigeria was the start of successive interventions and
by 2012 MSF was providing humanitarian assistance in 71 countries --
from Myanmar to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan's strife
stricken region of Darfur to Syria and Haiti.
MSF (Medecins Sans Frontiers) has earned a reputation for working in
the toughest of conditions and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in
Today it is a worldwide movement of 23 associations, bound together
as MSF International, based in Switzerland, with thousands of health
professionals, logistical and administrative staff.
It delivers emergency assistance to people affected by armed
conflict, epidemics and pandemics, natural and man-made disasters and
exclusion from health care.
In 2012 some 55 per cent of activities were carried out in settings
of instability. More than 68 per cent of its programmes were in Africa,
while 25 per cent were in Asia and the Middle East, and six per cent in
MSF spent 944 million euros ($1.25 billion) over the year, of which
81 percent was spent on humanitarian activities and the rest on
management and fundraising.
Almost 90 percent of its income came from more than 4.6 million
private donors -- which helps to protect its independence from
political, military or religious authorities.
Close to 32,000 MSF staff worked last year in 372 programmes.
MSF inspired a number of imitations -- including Hospitals without
Borders and Reporters with Borders -- groups which set out to improve
hospitals in hird world countries and to campaign against ill-treatment