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Who we are

We are Médecins Sans Frontières

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Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) translates to Doctors without Borders. We provide medical assistance to people affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters, or exclusion from healthcare. Our teams are made up of tens of thousands of health professionals, logistic and administrative staff - bound together by our charter.  Our actions are guided by medical ethics and the principles of impartiality, independence and neutrality. We are a non-profit, self-governed, member-based organisation.

MSF was founded in 1971 in Paris by a group of journalists and doctors. Today, we are a worldwide movement of nearly 68,000 people.

Bangassou - General context 2016

The MSF Charter

Médecins Sans Frontières is a private, international association. The association is made up mainly of doctors and health sector workers and is also open to all other professions which might help in achieving its aims.

All of its members agree to honour the following principles:

Médecins Sans Frontières provides assistance to populations in distress, to victims of natural or man-made disasters and to victims of armed conflict. They do so irrespective of race, religion, creed or political convictions.

Médecins Sans Frontières observes neutrality and impartiality in the name of universal medical ethics and the right to humanitarian assistance and claims full and unhindered freedom in the exercise of its functions.

Members undertake to respect their professional code of ethics and maintain complete independence from all political, economic or religious powers.

As volunteers, members understand the risks and dangers of the missions they carry out and make no claim for themselves or their assigns for any form of compensation other than that which the association might be able to afford them.

Complementary to the Charter

Complementary to the Charter, two core documents define our ways of working and guiding principles by exploring the concepts of proximity to patients, quality medical care, and témoignage - or bearing witness. 

Medical care in Ain Issa camp

Patients first

Our actions are guided by medical ethics

MSF’s actions are first and foremost medical. The notion of quality care for the individual patient is central to our humanitarian objective. We seek to provide high-quality care and to act always in the best interest of patients; to respect their confidentiality, their right to make their own decisions and above all, to do them no harm. When medical assistance alone is not enough, we may provide shelter, water and sanitation, food or other services.

Working principles

We are a global movement, with staff from over 160 countries

Our history

ANIMATION: Once upon a time the MSF movement (ENG)

The MSF movement

The founding of MSF

Why we started

From a group of doctors to an international movement: how has the MSF movement developed over the years? Learn about the creation of MSF and the major chapters of our history through the animated film, Once Upon a Time the MSF Movement.

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, Nigeria. 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.

Founders of MSF
  • Dr Jacques Beres
  • Philippe Bernier
  • Raymond Borel
  • Dr Jean Cabrol
  • Dr Marcel Delcourt
  • Dr Xavier Emmanuelli
  • Dr Pascal Greletty-Bosviel
  • Gérard Illiouz
  • Dr Bernard Kouchner
  • Dr Gérard Pigeon
  • Vladan Radoman
  • Dr Max Recamier
  • Dr Jean-Michel Wild