Médecins Sans Frontières

Everyone has a right to life-saving medical care. This also applies to people in areas stricken by war and conflict or people in places hit by epidemics or natural disasters. But in many of these areas, hundreds of thousands of people are deprived of any type of medical care.

Emergency medical aid

MSF is an independent, emergency medical aid organisation that helps people worldwide. Our aim is to reach the most vulnerable and isolated victims of wars, conflicts, natural disasters and epidemics. We decide for ourselves where, to whom and how we provide our aid, irrespective of any political, religious or economic interests. The basic principles of the Médecins Sans Frontières international network, of which MSF is a part, are laid down in a Charter.

Speaking out about abuses

In many areas where MSF works, basic human rights are violated on a large scale. In these cases, giving emergency aid alone is not enough. MSF therefore also acts as an advocate on others’ behalf. We do this by appealing to those in power – including governments and international organisations – and speaking out about the abuses we encounter in the course of our work.

When do we take action?

  • We help victims of wars and armed conflicts, for example if people are wounded or at risk of being cut off from medical care as a result of continuing conflict.
  • In natural disasters, when emergency aid is needed acutely in order to survive.
  • In outbreaks of disease and epidemics, for example a cholera outbreak or measles epidemic.
  • When people are fleeing from violence and forced to survive in dire conditions.
  • In acute health crises, for example resulting from the spread of diseases such as tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, or cases of acute and severe malnutrition.
  • When people suffer from violence, abuse and repression or if they are deliberately excluded from life-saving provisions such as medical care.

Immediate action

In the event of an acute disaster, we take immediate action. We can be on location within 48 hours. With our people and medication, medical equipment, special foods, water tanks and pumps, blankets and other emergency supplies.

On location

Our doctors, nurses and other specialists go in person to the country that needs help. Together with local staff, we treat our patients in our own projects in hospitals, clinics and mobile clinics.
We provide our aid through projects that we establish ourselves. We also often work closely with other organisations, for example in large refugee camps where we take responsibility for the healthcare.
The emergency medical aid in these projects receives comprehensive support from our own organisation, in the form of medical advice, fundraising, staff recruitment and procurement and logistics.

Better medicines

Since we speak to and treat patients on a daily basis, we also realise that the essential medicines are not available worldwide. With the other MSF sections, we lobby for the availability of high-quality, affordable medicines and better diagnosis through the international MSF Access Campaign. This is something we advocate on a continual basis, with governments, the pharmaceutical industry and international organisations.


The financial support we receive from the public and the Dutch Postcode Lottery enables us to provide independent and neutral aid. For specific projects, we sometimes apply for grants from institutional donors, including government agencies and the European Union. If we do this, we make it conditional on the grant-awarding body having no influence on the content of the projects. For projects in certain politically sensitive areas, we deliberately avoid applying for project grants from institutional donors. In 2013, this was the case for Pakistan, Afghanistan and our work in the province of North Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In 2013, we were aiming for institutional donors to contribute 15% of the annual budget for project expenditure. The actual percentage achieved was 17%.