Spring 2017: How MSF works

How does MSF work? It’s a deceptively simple question with at least as many different answers as we have patients all over the world. However, there are some common threads. From the most basic nutritional assistance for malnourished children to the most complex medical research, all of our work is guided by the principles set out in our charter: upholding medical ethics, maintaining impartiality, bearing witness on behalf of our patients, ensuring we remain accountable to both our donors and beneficiaries, and preserving our independence.

In a time when global politics are in a state of flux, our independence is more important than ever—and we owe that independence to donors like you. Independent support from our millions of private donors means that MSF is not beholden to the United Nations, the United States government, or any other entities, and that our funding never comes with expectations that might run counter to our mission. It means you can be sure that MSF’s decision to intervene in a country or crisis is based solely on the medical needs, and not on political, economic, or religious interests. With that independence comes responsibility, both to our patients and our supporters. In each issue of Alert, we try to feature deeper discussions about our operations; to be transparent about our work, and to hold ourselves accountable. To that end, this issue—the third in our “How MSF Works” series—will once again address common and not-so-common questions about the work we do, the ways it is accomplished, and the decisions behind the choices we make.

We’ll explore MSF’s organizational structure and the reasons for it, and touch on the ways in which MSF interacts with both governments and other nongovernmental organizations. We’ll examine new solutions to old problems, like using geographic information systems to track epidemics, and we’ll discuss how MSF is tackling relatively new challenges, like the fight against antimicrobial resistance. And we’ll go into more depth about the nature and importance of independence in a conversation with MSF-USA’s executive director, Jason Cone.

None of this would be possible without your generosity. In 2016, you contributed more than $350 million—the most ever in MSF-USA’s history, and in a year largely devoid of any “headline” crisis like the 2010 earthquake in Haiti or the 2014 Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Your support allows us to both prepare for the next headline and to continue providing emergency medical care where others can’t or won’t go, in Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria, Central African Republic—wherever the needs are greatest. That’s how MSF works.


John P. Lawrence, MD

President, MSF-USA Board of Directors

Alert: How MSF works