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. Their aim was to establish an independent organisation that focuses on delivering emergency medicine aid quickly, effectively and impartially.
Doctors Without Borders
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.
MSF's first missions
MSF’s first mission was to the Nicaraguan capital, Managua, in 1972, after an earthquake destroyed most of the city and killed between 10,000 and 30,000 people.
In 1974, MSF set up a relief mission to help the people of Honduras after Hurricane Fifi caused major flooding and killed thousands of people.
In 1975, MSF established its first large-scale medical programme during a refugee crisis, providing medical care for the waves of Cambodians seeking sanctuary from Pol Pot’s oppressive rule.
In these first missions, the weaknesses of MSF as a new humanitarian organisation became readily apparent: preparation was lacking, doctors were left unsupported and supply chains were tangled.