Our history

Why we started

From a group of doctors to an international movement: how has the MSF movement developed over the years? Learn about the creation of MSF and the major chapters of our history through the animated film, Once Upon a Time the MSF Movement.

  • The MSF Movement

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, Nigeria. Their aim was to establish an independent organisation that focuses on delivering emergency medicine aid quickly, effectively and impartially.

Three hundred volunteers made up the organisation when it was founded: doctors, nurses and other staff, including the 13 founding doctors and journalists.

Founders of MSF

  • dr. jacques beres
  • philippe bernier
  • raymond borel
  • dr. jean cabrol
  • dr. marcel delcourt
  • dr. xavier emmanuelli
  • dr. pascal greletty-bosviel
  • gérard illiouz
  • dr. bernard kouchner
  • dr. gérard pigeon
  • vladan radoman
  • dr. max recamier
  • dr. jean-michel wild

Our journey

1971

A Charter for the new MSF

MSF is officially created on 22 December 1971. At the time, 300 volunteers make up the organisation: doctors, nurses and other staff, including the 13 founding doctors and journalists.

1972

MSF's first mission

MSF’s first mission in 1972, is in Managua, Nicaragua’s capital, and follows an earthquake which destroyed most of the city and killed between 10,000 and 30,000 people.

1974

Honduras

In 1974, MSF sets up a relief mission to help the people of Honduras after Hurricane Fifi causes major flooding and kills thousands of people.

1975

Turning point

In 1975, MSF establishes 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 become readily apparent: preparation is lacking, doctors are left unsupported and supply chains are tangled. It marks a turning point and the movement begins to fracture.

1976

Learning to work in a war context

From 1976 and until 1984, MSF is present in Beirut and other cities in Lebanon to treat all war-wounded. Each day, the team treats patients injured by shrapnel or bullets. Broken limbs and burns are also looked after. Materials and tools are insufficient or inadequate for the medical teams; there are no X-rays, no electric instruments, no ventilator, and no possibility to conduct extensive medical exams. The capacity to do blood transfusions is also limited.

2016

MSF responds to the population displaced by violence in Assam with distribution of NFI kits

Our Past Work (2010-2013)

2016

MSF launches partnership with Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi) in its Kala Azar programme, Vaishali, Bihar

Our Past Work (2010-2013)

2016

MSF's Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) programme in Darbhanga district surpasses 10,000 children treated, and expands after recognition from the state government

Our Past Work (2010-2013)

2016

As a result of MSF's advocacy efforts, the Bihar State Health Minister inaugurates March 15 as Kala Azar Day

Our Past Work (2010-2013)

2016

MSF signs a three-year MoU with the Nagaland government to manage the government district hospital in Mon Providing primary and secondary care

Our Past Work (2010-2013)

2016

MSF responds to flash floods in Leh, Ladakh, and distributes Non Food Items (NFI) kits and provides mental health support for victims

Our Past Work (2010-2013)

2016

MSF intervenes in the floods in Andhra Pradesh, the Cyclone Aila in West Bengal and assists the Government of India to fight the meningitus outbreak in Meghalaya and Tripura

Building Our Foundation (2000-2009)

2016

MSF shifts operational activities from Dantewada district to Bijapur district. MSF starts Mother and Child Health Centre (MCHC) in Bijapur town

Building Our Foundation (2000-2009)

2016

MSF receives a certificate of recognition from the Vaishali district authorities in Bihar for kala azar treatment

Building Our Foundation (2000-2009)

2016

MSF intervenes in the Kosi river floods in Bihar

Building Our Foundation (2000-2009)

2016

MSF starts treatment of HIV and drug-resistant TB co-infections in Moreh, Manipur

Our Past Work (2010-2013)

2016

MSF receives approval from the Union Home Ministry and state authorities to implement a project in Assam

Building Our Foundation (2000-2009)

2016

Government of India awards MSF the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development

Laying The Foundation (1996-1999)

2016

MSF responds to cyclone in Orissa

Laying The Foundation (1996-1999)

2016

MSF starts Tuberculosis (TB) treatment programme in Mumbai

Laying The Foundation (1996-1999)

2016

MSF establishes an office in India

Laying The Foundation (1996-1999)

2016

MSF helps the victims of the earthquake in Gujarat

Our Past Work (2010-2013)

2016

MSF responds to the serious flooding in Khagaria district, Bihar

Building Our Foundation (2000-2009)

2016

MSF receives approval from the National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme and the Manipur state government to implement malaria control activities in Manipur

Building Our Foundation (2000-2009)

2016

MSF intervenes in the floods in Darbhanga district, Bihar

Building Our Foundation (2000-2009)

2016

MSF intervenes in ethnic clashes in Karbi Anglong district of Assam, supports 14,000 displaced people

Building Our Foundation (2000-2009)

2016

MSF's Access Campaign sets up office in India

Building Our Foundation (2000-2009)

2016

MSF India establishes a trust with the name Medecins Sans Frontieres Holland India

Building Our Foundation (2000-2009)

2016

MSF starts HIV/AIDS treatment programme in Mumbai

Building Our Foundation (2000-2009)

2016

MSF receives approval from Dantewada authorities in Chhattisgarh to support displaced population

Building Our Foundation (2000-2009)

2016

MSF hands over its projects (related to treatment of malaria) in Assam to the Ministry of Health and advocates for change of the malaria treatment protocol to Artemisinin-based Combination Therapy (ACT)

Building Our Foundation (2000-2009)

2016

MSF starts medical activities in Andhra Pradesh for people on the Chhattisgarh border affected by the conflict

Building Our Foundation (2000-2009)

2016

MSF signs a Memorandum of Understandng (MoU) with the Bihar State Health Society to implement a kala azar treatment project

Building Our Foundation (2000-2009)

2016

MSF gets approval from the district and state authorities in Darbhanga district, Bihar, to commence a medical treatment programme for children aged 6 to 59 months suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM)

Building Our Foundation (2000-2009)

2016

MSF intervenes in the flood situation in Puri district, Orissa

Building Our Foundation (2000-2009)

2016

MSF starts treatment of drug-resistant Tuberculosis (DR-TB) in Mumbai and Manipur

Building Our Foundation (2000-2009)

2016

MSF consolidates its presence in India by opening an institutional office in New Delhi that support MSF fields' activites through the recruitment of volunteers, the collection of funds and raising awareness in the country

Our Past Work (2010-2013)

2016

MSF receives the Nobel Peace Prize and a letter of appreciation from the President of India

Laying The Foundation (1996-1999)

2016

MSF helps the victims of the earthquake in Gujarat

Building Our Foundation (2000-2009)

2016

MSF starts mental healthcare programme in Jammu and Kashmir

Building Our Foundation (2000-2009)

2016

MSF responds to tsunami in Tamil Nadu

Building Our Foundation (2000-2009)

2016

MSF intervenes in the Jammu and Kashmir earthquake of October 9, 2005, supports 25,000 individuals and distributes 2,500 shelter kits

Building Our Foundation (2000-2009)

2016

MSF responds to July 2005 flooding in Mumbai and in Kurla, MSF provides emergency medical care and tests water to make sure that it is safe to drink

Building Our Foundation (2000-2009)

2016

MSF signs a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Manipur AIDS Control Society to implement an HIV treatment programme

Building Our Foundation (2000-2009)

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