Timeline of Médecins Sans Frontières
This is a timeline of Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), a French-origin international humanitarian aid organization that provides emergency medical assistance to populations in danger in nearly 70 countries.
|Time period||Development summary|
|1970s||Médecins Sans Frontières is born early in the decade out of the exasperation of a group of French doctors who worked in desperate conditions in the Nigerian Civil War. Along the decade, its growth and increased professionalism would come as a response to decolonization and cold war conflicts in Africa and Asia, which at the time create massive refugee crises. However, MSF remains a small organization in the 1970s.|
|1980s||Early in the decade, MSF introduces logistics and medical departments, a salaried administrative system, and the organization of marketing and fundraising activities. MSF field missions increase. In the 1980s, wars and refugee camps are MSF’s main field of intervention. Several sections of MSF are created in European countries in the decade.|
|1990s||War related situations and refugees movements remain an important focus for MSF. However, the organization increasingly faces the challenges of new health care crises, with the reemergence of once controlled diseases, the emergence of new epidemics, the failing health system in the former Soviet Union, lack of access to heath care for excluded populations in Western countries, and so forth.|
|2000s||Médecins Sans Frontières experiences steady growth. Among great activist challenges is the support to the battle to bring down the price of antiretroviral drugs for people living with HIV in developing countries. MSF's infrastructure like inflatable hospitals and telemedicine are developed in the decade.|
|2010s||As of 2015, MSF is active in nineteen countries and is involved in assistance activities in over sixty nations. It is represented by the International Office in Geneva, and has operational centers in Brussels, Paris, Amsterdam, Barcelona and Geneva that coordinate interventions. MSF remains independent from governments and political parties.|
|Year||Event type||Main affliction (when applicable)||Details||Country/location|
|1971 (December 22)||Creation||Médecins Sans Frontières is founded in Paris by a group of French doctors and journalists in the wake of Nigerian Civil War, and the floods in Bangladesh.||France|
|1972||Assistance||Earthquake||An earthquake in Nicaragua marks the first MSF mission in a natural disaster.||Nicaragua|
|1974||Assistance||Hurricane||MSF conducts a relief mission to assist people in Honduras after the devastating Hurricane Fifi–Orlene.||Honduras|
|1975||Assistance||Dictatorship/genocide||MSF establishes its first large-scale medical program during a refugee crisis in Cambodia, providing medical care for the waves of Cambodians seeking sanctuary from the Khmer Rouge regime.||Cambodia|
|1976||Assistance||War||MSF conducts its first wartime mission in Lebanon and becomes a professional medical emergency organization.||Lebanon|
|1977||Activism||MSF organizes its first major advertising campaign, featuring a picture of a child, looking into a camera from behind bars.|
|1977||Activism||Dictatorship/genocide||In spite of having promoted a depoliticized image, MSF representative Claude Malhuret first violates the statutory confidentiality commitment by condemning the “revolutionary crimes” of the Khmer Rouge who, he says, are “exterminating entire segments of the population in the name of some revamped communist ideology”.||Cambodia|
|1978||Assistance||War||MSF launches various refugee programs in Thailand, in Djibouti during the Ogaden War and Eritrean refugees in Sudan.||Thailand, Djibouti, Sudan|
|1979||Staff||MSF Co-founder Dr Bernard Kouchner leaves to form a new group, Médecins du Monde (Doctors of the World).|
|1979||Administration||MSF moves beyond its modus operandi of sending isolated doctors to crisis zones in favour of creating a more structured organization that can provide quality medical services in crises. The initiative is led by Dr Claude Malhuret and Dr Francis Charhon.|
|1979||Assistance||War||MSF starts working in Somalia, in times of the Somali Rebellion.||Somalia|
|1979||Assistance||War||MSF sets up missions to help civilians in South Sudan affected by starvation and the civil war.||Sudan|
|1980||Assistance||War||MSF launches its first nutritional program in the midst of drought and civil war in Karamoja, Uganda.||Uganda|
|1980||Assistance||War||MSF medical teams clandestinely cross the Pakistani–Afghan border and travel by mule for several weeks to reach injured civilians living in remote areas during the Soviet–Afghan War.||Afghanistan|
|1980||Branch||MSF-Belgium is founded.||Belgium|
|1981||War||MSF hospitals in Afghanistan are bombarded.||Afghanistan|
|1981||Administration||MSF sets up its first logistics department to coordinate and channel emergency medical relief.|
|1981||Branch||MSF-Switzerland is established.||Switzerland|
|1982||Assistance||General||MSF begins working in Rwanda.||Rwanda|
|1983||Administration||MSF France registers the brands "MSF International" and "MSF Europe" in Geneva and modifies its own statutes in order to integrate the possible creation of an MSF international structure.||France|
|1984||Assistance||Malnutrition||MSF starts programs to treat malnutrition in Ethiopia.||Ethiopia|
|1984||Branch||MSF establishes office in the Netherlands.||Netherlands|
|1984||Suborganization||MSF creates the Liberté Sans Frontières (LSF) Foundation, a think-tank on development and human rights issues.|
|1984||Suborganization||MSF Belgium establishes AEDES (Association Européenne pour le Développement et la Santé/European Association for Development and Health) in order to support long-term projects that MSF want to hand over, and to offer more stable jobs for certain MSF employees.||Belgium|
|1985||Administration||MSF Belgium opposes the creation by MSF France’s newly formed Liberté Sans Frontières, thus taking a first step towards independence from MSF France.||Belgium|
|1985||Withdrawal||The Government of Ethiopia expells MSF doctors on accusations for speaking out against Government policies.||Ethiopia|
|1985||Assistance||Starvation||MSF adds food relief to its eight-year-long mission in Eritrea, which has previously focused on emergency medicine.||Eritrea|
|1985||Assistance||War||MSF assists with medical care in Honduras to refugees from El Salvador and Nicaragua during armed conflict.||Honduras|
|1985||Branch||MSF-Spain is established.||Spain|
|1986||Assistance||War||MSF organizes mobile clinics and starts assisting injured and traumatized people affected by the Sri Lankan Civil War.||Sri Lanka|
|1986||Suborganization||MSF France creates MSF Logistique to manage the stocks of equipment and medicines to be sent to missions.||France|
|1986||Branch||Three doctors create MSF Luxembourg. The first actions by this association are done jointly with MSF Belgium in Ethiopia, Lebanon, Nicaragua, and then with MSF Spain in Bolivia. Refusing to recognize MSF Luxembourg as operational and independent, because of concerns over its small size and about its close ties to MSF Belgium, MSF France threatens to prosecute MSF Luxembourg to prevent the use of the MSF trademark.||Luxemburg, France|
|1986||Administration||MSF France registers as an overseas organization in the United Kingdom.||United Kingdom|
|1986||Administration||MSF Belgium creates its own green logo.||Belgium|
|1986||Administration||MSF France’s General Assembly votes to create a structure in charge of training MSF volunteers. This association, called CIREM (Centre d’Intervention pour la Recherche et l’Epidémiologie Médicale/Intervention Centre for Research and Medical Epidemiology), has three objectives: public health training, provision of scientific support to MSF missions, and scientific networking.||France|
|1987||Assistance||Disease||MSF vaccinates 2.5 million Nigerians in the region around Ibadan and in Anambra State.||Nigeria|
|1987||Assistance||General||MSF doctors start working in the Philippines.||Philippines|
|1987||Suborganization||MSF France launches a satellite organization called "Epicentre" to conduct epidemiological studies and assessments in field settings.||France|
|1988||Assistance||MSF is requested to start an intervention to address urgent health needs in the area of the Western Upper Nile.||Sudan|
|1988||Suborganization||MSF Belgium and MSF Holland strive to develop a concrete operational collaboration, and create a common Rapid Response Unit (Unité d’Intervention Rapide/UIR) which is to be coordinated alternately by each section.||Belgium, Netherlands|
|1988||Assistance||Earthquake||MSF assists victims of the earthquake of Armenia.||Armenia|
|1988||Assistance||Disease (cholera)||MSF employs cholera treatment centers (CTCs) in Malawi to address an epidemic among refugees escaping from the Mozambican Civil War.||Malawi|
|1988||Assistance||General||MSF starts operations in Algeria. The organization would close its projects in 2016 in the country.||Algeria|
|1989||Withdrawal||War||MSF withdraws from Sudan after an MSF plane is shot down by a missile, killing 4 people, two of them MSF volunteers.||Sudan|
|1989||Suborganization||MSF Belgium creates Transfer, a logistics center cooperative association, which remains under MSF control via the members of the General Assembly and board, who are all MSF Belgium members.||Belgium|
|1990||Withdrawal||Crime||MSF suspends activities in Afghanistan after a logistician from the organization is murdered.||Afghanistan|
|1990||Assistance||War||MSF begins working in Liberia in response to the civil war.||Liberia|
|1990||Branch||MSF-Greece is established.||Greece|
|1990||Branch||MSF establishes office in the United States.||United States|
|1990||Assistance||War||MSF begins its first psychosocial program in Gaza, which focuses on developing people’s self-help skills and on addressing both the social and psychological effects of violence.||Palestine|
|1991||Assistance||Disease (HIV/AIDS)||MSF initiates an HIV/AIDS prevention program in Uganda.||Uganda|
|1991||Branch||MSF establishes office in Canada.||Canada|
|1991||Assistance||General||MSF starts operations in Brazil. All projects would be closed in 2011.||Brazil|
|1992||Branch||MSF establishes office in Japan.||Japan|
|1992||Branch||MSF Sweden is established.||Sweden|
|1992||War/crime||MSF states that, “the main problem today is that of access to victims; the authorities or factions oppose humanitarian action, an inconvenient witness to their atrocities, and insecurity makes intervention increasingly dangerous”.|
|1992||Activism||The MSF International Office organizes the ‘Populations in Danger’ Days and the production of the ‘MSF Report on the Populations in Danger.’|
|1992||Suborganization||War||Netherlands-based Healthnet International is established by MSF to bridge the gap between humanitarian relief and structural support for health services in war-affected countries.||Netherlands|
|1993||Assistance||War||MSF starts operations in Burundi during the civil war in the country.||Burundi|
|1993||Branch||MSF establishes office in the United Kingdom.||United Kingdom|
|1993||Branch||MSF-Italy is established.||Italy|
|1993||Branch||MSF Denmark is established.||Denmark|
|1994||Assistance||Disease (tuberculosis)||MSF issues a new tuberculosis guideline that refers explicitly to WHO's declaration on the eradication of TB as a public health priority.|
|1994||Branch||MSF-Australia is established.||Australia|
|1994||Branch||MSF Germany, MSF Hong Kong, MSF Australia, and MSF Austria are established.||Germany, Hong Kong, Australia, Austria|
|1995||Assistance||War||MSF doctors assist civilians during the First Chechen War.||Russia|
|1995||Branch||MSF France’s Antenna is set up in the United Arab Emirates.||United Arab Emirates|
|1995||Assistance||MSF becomes the first European NGO to begin working in North Korea.||North Korea|
|1996||Recognition||MSF receive the Seoul Peace Prize.||South Korea|
|1996||Branch||MSF Norway is established.||Norway|
|1996||Assistance||Disease (meningococcal meningitis)||MSF launches a massive vaccination and treatment program during a severe epidemic of meningococcal meningitis in Nigeria. About 4.5 million people are assisted.||Nigeria|
|1996 (November)||Activism||War||MSF calls for armed international intervention in Rwanda, “to protect the refugees and guarantee access to aid”.||Rwanda|
|1997||Assistance||War/Genocide||MSF assists Rwandan refugees forced out of camps in Zaire as they return home, but are blocked from assisting those fleeing further into Zaire, who fall victim to widespread massacres.||Rwanda|
|1997||Literature||Forced displacement||MSF publishes the book Refugee Health, which establishes ten top priorities for managing refugee emergencies.|
|1997||Assistance||Flood||MSF in North Korea distributes 2,200 tons of spring barley seeds to help the population cope with flood damage and increase agricultural production.||North Korea|
|1998||Policy||Mental health||MSF formally recognizes the importance of providing mental healthcare and psychosocial care as part of its emergency work.|
|1998||Activism||Crime||MSF decides to support the creation of the International Criminal Court. However, 10 years later it would state that it ‘would not cooperate and would not transmit any information to the ICC', as the organization needs to keep its distance from the ICC, as from any other political body.|
|1998 (October–November)||Assistance||Hurricane||MSF assists victims of Hurricane Mitch in Central America.||Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador|
|1999||Recognition||MSF is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "in recognition of the organization's pioneering humanitarian work on several continents".||Sweden|
|1999||Assistance||Cyclone||MSF India doctors assist victims of the cyclone in Odisha.||India|
|1999||Assistance||War||MSF doctors provide humanitarian assistance to refugees in Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro during the Kosovo War.||Kosovo|
|2000||Assistance||War||MSF doctors assist victims during the Sierra Leone Civil War.||Sierra Leone|
|2000||Assistance||Disease (HIV/AIDS)||MSF teams in Thailand break rules to import affordable HIV medicines to treat patients from HIV/AIDS.||Thailand|
|2001||Assistance||Disease (HIV/AIDS)||MSF starts providing antiretroviral therapy to people living with AIDS in several countries.||Thailand, Cambodia, Cameroon, Guatemala, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa|
|2001||Assistance||Earthquake||MSF assists victims of the earthquake in Gujarat.||India|
|2002||Assistance||Dictatorship/repression||MSF France extends its program to assist North Korean refugees who fly from China to other Asian countries in their attempt to reach South Korea, where an office is established in Seoul.||North Korea, China, South Korea|
|2002||Assistance||Disease (chagas)||MSF starts its first Chagas project in Bolivia, the country with the highest Chagas prevalence in the world.||Bolivia|
|2003||Program||Disease||The Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative is founded by MSF and the Pasteur Institute, along with four other public research institutions. DNDi focuses on research and development of new and more efficient treatments for neglected diseases such as malaria, Chagas, kala azar and sleeping sickness.|
|2004||Assistance||Disease (tuberculosis)||MSF treats patients for tuberculosis in nearly 50 projects in 24 countries.||Angola, Afghanistan, Abkhazia/Georgia, Burma, Burundi, Cambodia, Caucasus/Chechnya, Chad, China, Congo, Congo DR, Ethiopia, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Nepal, Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia, Thailand, Uganda, Uzbekistan|
|2004||Assistance||Malnutrition||MSF treats 30,000 malnourished children worldwide.|
|2004||Withdrawal||War||MSF leaves Afghanistan after five of its aid workers are murdered, ostensibly by the Taliban. By 2009, the organization would return to the country.||Afghanistan|
|2005||Administration||MSF establishes an independent and specialized Evaluation Unit in Vienna. Since then, similar units would be set up in Stockholm and Paris.||Austria|
|2005||Assistance||Malnutrition||MSF treats 60,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition in Niger by providing ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF), a fortified milk paste rich in vitamins and minerals.||Niger|
|2005||Infrastructure||Earthquake||During the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, MSF uses an inflatable hospital for the first time, comprising nine tents, four operating theaters, an emergency room, an intensive care unit, and 120 beds. Since then such hospitals would become a staple in MSF’s projects, especially in places where medical infrastructure were damaged by conflict or natural disasters.||Pakistan|
|2006||Branch||The MSF-Czech Republic office is established in Prague.||Czechia|
|2006||Assistance||Disease (malaria)||MSF treats 1.8 million people for malaria in its projects in Africa, Asia and Latin America.||Africa, Asia, Latin America|
|2007||Assistance||Disease (ebola)||MSF teams assist patients during an Ebola outbreak in Uganda.||Uganda|
|2007||Assistance||Repression||MSF starts to provide medical assistance to Zimbabwean refugees in the border town of Musina, South Africa.||South Africa, Zimbabwe|
|2007||Assistance||War||MSF assists civilians affected by the Somali Civil War. War surgery programs start in several locations.||Somalia|
|2008||Assistance||Disease (cholera)||MSF doctors assist patients during an outbreak of cholera in Zimbabwe.||Zimbabwe|
|2008||Assistance||General||MSF staff comprising over 26,000 doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals, logistical experts, water and sanitation engineers and administrators provide medical aid in over 65 countries.|
|2009||Withdrawal||MSF is expelled from Darfur, and its activities in Niger are suspended by the government.||Sudan, Niger|
|2009||Assistance||War||MSF opens a surgical hospital in Gaza and starts offering post-operative and psychological care. The two hospital tents include operating theaters and a 12-bed post-surgery recovery and post-operative care unit.||Palestine|
|2009||Assistance||Disease||MSF organizes large-scale immunization campaigns, particularly against meningitis in western Africa, where MSF workers vaccinate almost eight million people in Nigeria and Niger.|
|2009||Withdrawal||War||MSF withdraws from Sri Lanka, after working for seventeen years against a background of civil war between the government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.||Sri Lanka|
|2009||Assistance||Malnutrition||MSF workers treat 250,000 malnourished children in 34 countries in the year.|
|2009–2013||Infrastructure||MSF first pilots the use of telemedicine and consolidates multiple platforms in different languages in 2013 to create a more secure and accessible system. The platforms allow doctors and nurses in the field to easily consult with both MSF and non-MSF experts and specialists anywhere in the world by posting text and images, including X-rays.|
|2010||Assistance||Flood||MSF responds to massive floods in Pakistan, assisting more than 80,000 patients and distributing nearly 2 million liters of clean water, along with almost 65,000 relief kits.||Pakistan|
|2010||Activism||Malnutrition||MSF and the VII Photo Agency launch the "Starved For Attention" multimedia campaign on global malnutrition.|
|2010 (January)||Assistance||Earthquake||MSF doctors assist victims of the Haitian earthquake.||Haiti|
|2010||Assistance||Flood||MSF doctors carry out more than 80,000 medical consultations, treat more than 4,500 children for malnutrition and distribute 1.8 million litres of clean water every day to people affected by flooding during the 2010 Pakistan floods.||Pakistan|
|2010||Infrastructure||MSF develops a multilingual telemedicine network to assist its field medical staff by providing direct access to specialist advice.|
|2010||Withdrawal||MSF suspends activities in Turkmenistan stating they can no longer provide effective assistance in a country where national health authorities hide the true state of public health and disseminate misinformation.||Turkmenistan|
|2011||Assistance||War/crime||MSF workers provide medical care to more than 20,088 patients in the emergency room and conduct 955 emergency surgeries in the hospital’s operating theater in Hangu, Pakistan, where risk of armed conflict remains high.||Pakistan|
|2012||Assistance||General||MSF in the Democratic Republic of Congo provides over 1.6 million outpatient consultations, treats 434,300 patients for malaria, admits over 90,000 patients to hospital and vaccinates 407,600 people against measles across the country.||Democratic Republic of Congo|
|2012||Assistance||General||MSF launches a large emergency program caused by massive influx of Sudanese refugees into South Sudan. The organization provides a total of 869,300 outpatient consultations, admits over 46,700 patients to hospital, treats 148,700 patients for malaria and vaccinates 204,800 people against measles. Teams also launch emergency response to the flooding in Yambio and the measles outbreak in Gogrial.||South Sudan|
|2012||Assistance||General||MSF in Somalia provides a total of 624,200 outpatient consultations, admits over 40,000 patients to hospital, treats over 30,000 severely malnourished patients, and conducts 2,750 surgical procedures in 13 areas of the country.||Somalia|
|2013||Withdrawal||War/crime||MSF closes all its programs in Somalia after 22 years working in the country. The decision comes after a long series of threats, kidnappings, extremely violent attacks, and murders, with 16 members of MSF staff having been killed since 1991.||Somalia|
|2013||Assistance||Disease (tuberculosis)||MSF begins implementation of a shortened treatment course for drug-resistant tuberculosis in Uzbekistan.||Uzbekistan|
|2014 (February)||Withdrawal||MSF is ordered by the Government of Myanmar to cease all activities in the country, where MSF doctors assist 30,000 HIV/AIDS patients and more than 3,000 TB patients. By December 2014 MSF would restart primary health clinics in the country.||Myanmar|
|2014||Infrastructure||Disease (tuberculosis)||MSF experiments with the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in Papua New Guinea to transport sputum samples from patients with suspected tuberculosis from remote health centers to a hospital for testing.||Papua New Guinea|
|2015||Assistance||General||MSF intervenes in 69 countries, where it develops 446 humanitarian projects. The organization realizes 8.6 million medical consultations and hospitalizes nearly 600 000 patients.|
|2015||Assistance||Disease (ebola)||MSF opens the Bardnesville Junction Hospital (BJH) in Monrovia, at the time the epicenter of the Western African Ebola virus epidemic.||Liberia|
|2016||Assistance||General||MSF establishes a decentralized Middle East unit based in Amman, Jordan to support MSF operations in the Middle East.||Jordan|
|2016||Activism||MSF delivers the names of more than 416,000 people from 170 countries who signed a petition asking Pfizer and GSK to reduce the price of the pneumonia vaccine to $5 per child (for all three doses) for populations affected by crisis and for all developing countries.|
|2017||Assistance||Mental health||MSF workers perform 306,300 individual mental health consultations and 49,800 group sessions in 52 countries.|
|2017||Assistance||Childbirth||MSF workers in Yemen help 7,900 women deliver their babies.||Yemen|
|2018 (January)||Disease/injury||MSF opens a paediatric surgical program at a hospital in Monrovia, Liberia, with the goal to make surgical care more available for children in the country.||Liberia|
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