Doctors Without Borders: Its History and Mission

Doctors Without Borders

Doctors Without Borders


Doctors Without Borders, popularly known as Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), is an international, independent medical, humanitarian aid, non-governmental organization actively involved in crisis management projects. According to its official website, the group, driven by its history and mission of placing “people first” before anything else, delivers much-needed, timely medical aid worldwide to areas severely affected by armed conflicts, epidemics, and disasters. It also caters to all those underprivileged regions that are totally deprived of quality and affordable healthcare, regardless of their political, economic, or religious orientation. Thereby, the organization emphasizes the planning, decision, and implementation of its crisis management efforts based only on people’s needs.

The humanitarian organization was officially launched on Dec. 22, 1971, by Dr. Bernard Kouchner and a team of 12 other founding doctors and journalists, alongside 300 volunteers that included medical practitioners, nurses, and other staff members. However, its foundation was laid three years prior, in May 1968, amidst the Parisian upheaval, which led a group of young, altruistic doctors to extend medical help to victims of wars and major disasters.

At present, the group, as reported by its website, serves more than 80 countries worldwide via offices employing more than 30,000 people across four major continents–Asia, Africa, America, and Europe. Doctors Without Borders, since its inception, has successfully treated more than 100 million people around the globe, apart from carrying out 8 million outpatient consultations in 2014 alone. In addition, Doctors Without Borders has been recognized for its history and mission of “pioneering humanitarian work on several continents.” Moreover, the philanthropic organization has also been a proud recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999. The proceeds of which, according to its website, have gone toward setting up a Neglected Disease Fund designed to support pilot projects for the clinical development, production, procurement, and distribution of treatments for neglected diseases, such as Chagas, sleeping sickness, and malaria.

Other accomplishments include the American Institute of Philanthropy recently bestowing the organization with an “A” rating for successfully meeting all the criteria of a watchdog agency. In 2015, MSF also occupied the no. 34 spot on Forbes list of the 50 largest charities in the United States. This was based on a 4/4 star rating, equating to a score of 95.17 out of 100 on the parameter of financial accountability and transparency, which it was awarded in 2014 by Charity Navigator, which is America’s largest and most-utilized appraiser of charities worldwide.

As a result, Doctors Without Borders has a large network of supporters, donors, and fundraisers, all of which form an integral part of its financial model. The charitable organization’s primary source of revenue, as reported by the Charity Navigator website, is contributions, gifts, and grants, which accounted for 98.5 percent of its total earnings in 2014. This is apart from federated campaigns and fundraising events, which made a negligible contribution toward the same. Ironically, MSF’s expenses, at present, slightly outweigh its revenues. As disclosed by the group on its website, more than 85 percent of the earned revenue is spent in funding the organization’s social mission programs and public education activities. However, the Charity Navigator website contends this figure to be 99 percent, with 88.8 percent of its funding being utilized towards supporting the said programs, and the remaining 10.3 percent is used to finance the fundraising events. Thereby, making the lack of efficient business operations within Doctors Without Borders an area of concern. The altruistic entity, in its own words, aims to address this anomaly by “minimizing fundraising and administrative costs.”

By Bashar Saajid
Edited by Leigh Haugh

MSF: About Us
Doctors Without Borders: Founding of MSF
MSF: The Nobel Peace Prize
MSF: Financial Information
Forbes: #34 Doctors Without Borders USA
Charity Navigator: Overview
Charity Navigator: Doctors Without Borders USA
Image Courtesy TetterooMedia’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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