Medecins sans Frontieres: The brave people who put their life at risk everyday
Médecins Sans Frontières was created in 1971, in the aftermath of the Biafra secession, by a small group of French doctors and journalists who believed that all people have the right to medical care regardless of race, religion, creed or political affiliation, and that the needs of these people outweigh respect for national borders.
“Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity” – Hippocrates
The organization is known in most of the world by its localized name or simply as MSF; in Canada and the United States the name ‘Doctors Without Borders’ is commonly used. In 2015 over 30,000, mostly local, doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, logistical experts, water and sanitation engineers and administrators provided medical aid in over 70 countries. These doctors and nurses decided to volunteer their time to solve issues of world health. Private donors provide about 90% of the organization’s funding, while corporate donations provide the rest, giving MSF an annual budget of approximately US$750 million.
“Medicine is not only a science; it is also an art. It does not consist of compounding pills and plasters; it deals with the very processes of life, which must be understood before they may be guided” – Paracelsus
The organization actively provides health care and medical training to populations in about 70 countries and frequently insists on political responsibility in conflict zones such as Chechnya and Kosovo. Only once in its history, during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, has the organization called for military intervention. In order to be able to speak and act freely, MSF remains independent of any political, religious or economic powers.
“Always laugh when you can. It is cheap medicine” – Lord Byron
MSF has general consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. It received the 1999 Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of its members’ continued efforts to provide medical care in acute crises, as well as raising international awareness of potential humanitarian disasters. James Orbinski, who was the president of the organization at the time, accepted the prize on behalf of MSF. Prior to this, MSF also received the 1996 Seoul Peace Prize. Joanne Liu has served as the international president since 1 October 2013.
MSF personnel face danger on a daily basis. Some examples:
- On 14 August 2013, MSF announced that it was closing all of its programs in Somalia due to attacks on its staff byAl-Shabaab militants and perceived indifference or inurement to this by the governmental authorities and wider society.
- On 3 October 2015, 14 staff and 28 others died when an MSF hospital was bombed by American forces during the Battle of Kunduz.
- On 27 October 2015, an MSF hospital inSa’dah, Yemen was bombed by the Saudi Arabia-led military coalition.
- On 28 November 2015, an MSF-supported hospital was barrel-bombed by a Syrian Air Force helicopter, killing seven and wounding forty-seven people near Homs, Syria.
- On 10 January 2016, an MSF-supported hospital in Sa’dah was bombed by the Saudi Arabia-led military coalition, killing six people.
- On 15 February 2016, two MSF-supported hospitals in the Idlib District and Aleppo, Syria were bombed, killing at least 20 and injuring dozens of patients and medical personnel. Both Russia and the United States denied responsibility and being in the area at the time.
- On 28 April 2016, an MSF hospital in Aleppo was bombed, killing 50, including six staff and patients.