During periods of major disease outbreaks, natural disasters, and deadly conflicts, victims can count on one organization to come to their aid. Doctors Without Borders, or Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), is an internationally focused non-governmental organization (NGO) that provides assistance to areas in critical need of medical care. 

Born out of Unrest

MSF formed in response to the Nigerian civil war and social unrest in France in the late 1960s. French Red Cross workers stationed in Nigeria during the civil war grew frustrated because of the lack of political advocacy for their patients. At the same time, social unrest in France and televising of worldwide peril inspired many to advocate for those suffering around the globe. These developments prompted a group of doctors, clinicians, and journalists to create MSF in 1971.

Providers and Advocates

MSF sends volunteers around the world to respond to health and medical crises, train medical staffs, conduct field research, and advocate for their victims. It currently has 450 ongoing medical projects in 69 countries. Unlike many of its peers that have sustained operations, MSF responds to short-term crises and then exits once the situation is stabilized.

MSF volunteers also engage in “witnessing,” or taking political stances when they believe political neutrality would exacerbate suffering.  For instance, it called upon the French government to intervene in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. The political nature of MSF has led to tension with governments in which it has operated. The Ethiopian and Somali governments, for example, have removed MSF groups in the past after accusing them of political disloyalty.

Money Well Spent

MSF primarily receives private donations from individuals worldwide. According to CharityWatch, MSF only spends $12 of every $100 on fundraising, with the vast majority of funds dedicated to programmatic cost.  

Dig Deeper

Take a look at some of these articles to learn more about Doctors without Borders:

About the Author
John is a graduate student in International Affairs at The George Washington University and serves as the Director of Public Relations for Matters of State. Originally from Central Texas, John earned a B.A. in linguistics from the University of Texas at Austin. He lived in South Korea for nearly three years, teaching English on Jeju Island before studying Korean in Seoul. John’s academic and professional interests are international security and East Asian affairs.