MSF needs a wide range of talented people in order to perform its work. We employ an international team of medical professionals, paramedics, logistical and administrative staff and coordinators. By far the majority of our staff members are recruited in the project countries. Alongside medical staff, these also include office staff, drivers, stock managers, etc. In 2013, we posted 1,229 international staff members abroad and we employed 10,222 staff hired in the project countries.

The numbers of both international staff (+233) and staff from the project countries (+2576) increased strongly in 2013 due to a number of emergency situations. In 2014, we posted the majority of the international staff to South Sudan (251), the Central African Republic (106), Chad (99) and Myanmar (99). The countries where we employed the highest numbers of local staff were South Sudan (1,351 FTEs), Myanmar (1,109 FTEs) and Ethiopia (483 FTEs).

Professional standards

Our HR policy is focused on deploying people with the right qualifications at the right time in the regions where they are needed. The challenges involved are only increasing: as our projects are growing, we need more staff and we also have an increasing need for specialised staff. The greatest challenge is to motivate people to accept more than only 1 posting for MSF. We offer all our staff the highest professional standards in their working environments and their terms and conditions of employment.

In order to meet our policy goals, in 2013 we started planning for a thorough reorganisation of the HR department in Amsterdam. The aim of the change is to improve the quality of HR management and administration in our projects and to embed these more firmly in management in the project countries. In order to achieve this we will also need to make changes to the support at the Amsterdam office. Policy making, procedures and the relevant support activities will be more centralised, while the responsibility for HR management will become decentralised. In 2013, the underlying vision, the strategic goals and the renewed matching and training strategy were set down. In 2014, we will be implementing the new structure.

International staff

We recruit our international staff in close collaboration with other MSF sister organizations. Of the total amount of staff posted abroad in 2013 (1,229), 280 went to work in a crisis region for the first time.
Of the total of 1,229, the Amsterdam office recruited 331 in 2013. These were mainly logistical and administrative staff and paramedical professionals. The remaining 898 staff were recruited through other MSF sections.
The average length of a mission in 2013 was 5.8 months. In 2012, the average length was 6.8 months. This decrease was related to the great number of acute emergencies and the difficult conditions we faced in 2013. Our goal is for our international staff to be posted to their projects for an average of 9 months. This allows the most efficient form of aid provision.

Training and education

As a professional aid organisation, we think it is important that our staff are properly prepared and have the right knowledge and skills before they set to work. To this end, we organise a wide range of basic and specialised courses for our field staff every year. In 2013, 274 people followed the preparatory course for first mission staff. 260 people followed a project management course and 186 people followed the online course for logistics and administration in the field. For the sake of efficiency, MSF strives to provide as much as possible of its training programme online.
As we want medical considerations to have more weight in our decision-making processes, in 2013 we introduced a combined course for both medical and general field managers for the first time, which was very successful.

Psychosocial care and aftercare

Working for MSF is always challenging and sometimes confronting, which is why we take our care responsibility extremely seriously. Alongside equal opportunities and fair terms and conditions of employment, we also provide psychosocial care in order to limit the mental impact of our humanitarian work. A team of specialists is responsible for prevention, diagnosis and local interventions in the wake of serious incidents. In 2013, intervention teams visited project countries on 18 occasions in order to support staff following a serious incident.

Because mental health problems do not always surface straight away, we are also acutely aware of the importance of aftercare. We have a 24-hour helpline for returning international staff and we also offer them face-to-face meetings. In 2013, 10% more staff members requested support than in 2012, mainly due to the increased insecurity in the project areas.

The Repatriation project was also established in 2013. This project involved interviews with staff and their families in order to identify the challenges they experienced after returning from a region affected by a humanitarian crisis. We will be publishing an information brochure in 2014 on the basis of this data with tips for staff and their families.

Support for field projects

MSF-Holland and its partners in the MSF OCA partnership have offices in Amsterdam, Berlin and London. These offices provide support to the staff in the field in the form of PR, fundraising and recruitment activities and they ensure that any specialised medical knowledge that is required is developed. The offices in Amsterdam and Berlin are also responsible for initiating and coordinating the field projects. The Amsterdam office also coordinates the financial administration and international purchasing of medicines and emergency aid supplies.

In 2013, the Amsterdam office had a staff complement of 194 FTEs, a small increase relative to the 191 FTEs in 2012.

The Amsterdam office had a staff illness percentage of 2.8% in 2013. Despite an increase of 0.5% compared to the year before, this is still well below the Dutch average of almost 4% (based on Statistics Netherlands figures for the first 3 quarters of 2013).

International field staff 2011 2012 2013
Number of FTE international field staff positions 602 577 661
Number of international field staff dispatched 1,120 996 1,229
Number of international field staff dispatched
to acute emergencies
270 – (24%) 194 – (19%) 348 – (28%)
International field staff dispatched
per sector
Medical 262 – (24%) 230 – (23%) 256 – (21%)
Paramedical 360 – (32%) 308 – (31%) 427 – (35%)
Logistical and administrative staff 498 – (44%) 458 – (46%) 546 – (44%)
Staff hired in project countries      
Staff hired in project countries
as of 31 December
7,490 7,247 7,817
Staff hired in project countries per sector      
Medical staff 279 281 307
Paramedical staff 2,928 3,008 2,872
Non-medical programme staff Niet geregistreerd 1,424
Logistical, administrative and
domestic staff
4,283 4,349 2,814
Office staff 2011 2012 2013
Total office staff in Amsterdam
(as of 31 December)
 241 253 266
Office contracts Amsterdam in FTE  178 191 194
Male/Female division (%) 44/56 45/55 44/56
Full-time / Part-time (%) 54/46 52/48 49/51
Dutch nationality/other nationalities 70/30 70/30 68/32

Employee participation

MSF has a Works Council that represents the joint interests of the office and field staff. The Works Council aims to ensure that the organisation maintains the right balance between its ambitions, its humanitarian character and the interests of its employees.

The Works Council was closely involved in the renewal of the field staff remuneration system in 2013 and the years before. The implementation of a new pension system last year also took up a lot of their time. They were also involved in the restructuring of the ICT activities, the reorganisation of the HR department and the flexible working programme at the head office. The Works Council board will be renewed in 2014, including a complement of international staff. The terms and conditions of employment of the field staff will remain high on the agenda.

Plans for 2014

Our organisation and its projects require medical staff who are able to take on leadership positions. This will be a key point for attention in the recruitment of staff in 2014.

We are also committed to expanding the opportunities for development of our staff hired in the project countries and we will continue with the reorganisation of the HR department in order to improve the support ensuing from the new challenges to our projects.