In 2019, tens of thousands of MSF staff undertook lifesaving work that impacted millions of people in more than 70 countries around the world. We begin this report by thanking them for their commitment and dedication. This is also an opportunity to raise two issues of growing concern to MSF.
Over the past two decades, governments have implemented increasingly restrictive legislation to fight radical armed groups. In certain situations, these restrictive measures conflict with the provisions of international humanitarian law and have direct consequences on MSF’s ability to provide medical and humanitarian assistance to those in need. Our work is sometimes perceived as material support and collusion with criminal groups, rather than impartial and neutral medical humanitarian assistance to the wounded, the sick and other very vulnerable people. In some places, this is compounding an already very difficult situation where humanitarian aid is significantly curtailed as a result of the abduction and killing of humanitarian workers by armed groups.
In Nigeria and Syria, for example, we have for years been confronted with reduced access to people in dire need, living in highly insecure regions where states have criminalised some humanitarian and medical activities and personnel. Our staff have been arrested in Syria, military investigations into our activities have taken place in Nigeria and non-state armed groups have attacked and kidnapped humanitarian workers. International sanction regimes and restrictive state measures also affect the financial transactions of aid organisations by, for example, placing restrictions on where funds can be transferred. We have experienced this first-hand, notably when we endeavoured to transfer money to pay our staff in Somalia.
Monitoring and assessing how these restrictive measures threaten the security of our staff and impede our work is a priority for us, as is mitigating the way in which humanitarian action and principles are impacted. Security and humanitarian frameworks should be able to coexist so that people affected by conflict and violence are not denied the assistance they are entitled to.
Climate change, a human-induced reality, is also of great concern to us, as it may well alter the dynamics of conflict and the incidence of disease, impacting communities already at risk. Following a motion passed by our International General Assembly in 2019, we are evaluating how we can address environmental issues most effectively. On the basis of scientific reports outlining what can be expected in the future, it is vital that we prepare to assist the people who will be affected. At the same time, we need to assess our own carbon footprint and take steps to incorporate environmentally responsible working methods, products and equipment into our projects. Adapting the way we operate could greatly impact the communities we serve, which is why we must define and adopt a strategy as a matter of urgency.
The following pages present an overview of MSF’s work in 2019. We extend our deepest gratitude to our donors, whose trust and generosity allow our organisation to continue to provide vital humanitarian and medical assistance wherever we can.