We act fast
Emergencies are messy, complex and chaotic. People’s lives are threatened, families shattered and the future is uncertain. The needs are often huge.
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is designed to respond fast – we have a network of medics and aid experts across some 70 countries. Our financial independence means we can act rapidly, without waiting for governments or other institutions to release funds.
This reach and independence means we will always try to help the people in greatest need, rather than tailoring our response to the demands of funders, politicians or the media. People come first.
"Humanitarianism is not a tool to end war or create peace. It is a citizen's response to political failure."
Our teams are often the first on the scene.
After Cyclone Idai hit southern Africa in 2019, our emergency response teams were on their way within hours.
During the early months of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa from 2014, in many areas, our teams provided the only medical care, and MSF was the leading voice demanding the world’s attention.
After the devastating Haiti earthquake of 2010, we treated the first survivors within minutes.
Our focus is emergency response. But emergencies don’t always happen suddenly or hit the headlines.
In many places where we work there are no other healthcare providers or aid organisations. In other places, we work closely with ministries of health or other partners to ensure the best care for our patients.
Since our founding in 1971, we have built a network of individuals that connects supporters with medics and patients to help the people in greatest need.
Five decades on, we have more than 45,000 staff around the world. These individuals own and run MSF, making collective decisions and shaping the future of the MSF movement.
And we are funded by millions of individual supporters, allowing us to respond quickly and remain fiercely independent.
Our approach does not always sit comfortably with the usual charity sector style.
We never launch an emergency appeal unless we are certain we can spend the money on that specific crisis; there are no asterisks or hidden disclaimers diverting money to other parts of the organisation.
We’ve even offered money back when public generosity has outstripped the response or else made sure our supporters were happy for their money to be spent elsewhere.
Except for emergency appeals, we ask that people give to our general funds, contributing to an emergency reserve that is ready to use when a disaster strikes.
In the UK, nearly100 percent of our funds come from individual supporters – they are essential members of the MSF network.