“What I’ve experienced is that I can’t know the future. I can’t know if anything that I do will change what happens tomorrow. I can’t know with certainty, but what I do know is if I do nothing, nothing will change.”

Dr. James OrbinskiMSF Canada Founder

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) was established in 1971 by a small group of French doctors who had worked together during the Nigerian Civil War. Upon their return, they were determined to find a way to respond rapidly and effectively to public health emergencies, with complete independence from political, economic and religious influences.

Today, MSF is one of the world's leading independent international medical relief organizations, working in more than 70 countries worldwide and with operational centres and national offices in 19 countries.

Our mandate concerns emergency relief, and the principles we honour while carrying out our work are contained in the MSF Charter. We launch our operations in areas where there is no medical infrastructure or where the existing one cannot withstand the pressure to which it is subjected. In most cases, relief programs change to rehabilitation projects that may run for several years after the most urgent needs have been met.

For more than 40 years, we have been providing medical help to people caught in many kinds of catastrophes, including armed conflicts, natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes, epidemics of disease and malnutrition crises. All these situations call for rapid response with specialized medical and logistical help. We are renowned for our quick response and efficient, effective work in the toughest emergencies. Beyond the drama of the acute crisis, we also intervene in times that call for a less urgent type of action, for instance, in chronic refugees situations, areas of chronic instability, and in periods following a conflict or disaster. The action we take comes in multiple forms:

  • Emergency healthcare, including surgery
  • Mass vaccination campaigns
  • Water and sanitation systems
  • Therapeutic and supplementary nutrition
  • Distribution of drugs and supplies
  • Training and health education
  • Organization or rehabilitation of health facilities
  • Medical assistance within existing health facilities

We observe impartiality in the name of medical ethics and the right to humanitarian assistance. To ensure this independence, the majority of the funding for projects comes from donations from the public, as well as from corporations and foundations. Additional funding comes from national governments and international institutions, such as the Canadian International Development Agency, the European Community and various bodies of the United Nations.

In providing humanitarian assistance, we act as witnesses and will speak out as appropriate, in private or in public, about the critical needs of the people we help. In doing so, we seek to alleviate human suffering, to protect life and health, and to restore and ensure respect for human beings and their dignity.

MSF works in more than 70 countries worldwide and has operational centres and national offices in 19 countries.

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