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. 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 was created in the belief that all people should have access to healthcare regardless of gender, race, religion, creed or political affiliation, and that people’s medical needs outweigh respect for national boundaries. MSF’s principles of action are described in our charter, which established a framework for our activities.
MSF's first missions
In 1974, MSF set up a relief mission to help the people of Honduras after Hurricane Fifi caused major flooding and killed thousands of people. In 1975, MSF established its first large-scale medical programme during a refugee crisis, providing medical care for the waves of Cambodians seeking sanctuary from Pol Pot’s oppressive rule.
Since 1980, MSF has opened offices in 28 countries. Today, MSF employs more than 30,000 people across the world. Since its founding, MSF has treated over a hundred million patients – with 8.3 million outpatient consultations being carried out in 2012 alone.
MSF remains fiercely independent of both governments and institutions. MSF also reserves the right to speak out to bring attention to neglected crises, challenge inadequacies or abuse of the aid system, and to advocate for improved medical treatments and protocols.
MSF rejects the idea that poor countries deserve third-rate medical services and strives to provide high-quality care to patients. Simultaneously, and with equal vigor, MSF continuously seeks to improve the organisation's own practices.