New York, NY, January 13, 2009—Sophie Delaunay began her tenure yesterday as Executive Director of the U.S. section of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). With a background in international affairs and more than a dozen years of experience running MSF field programs in countries as diverse as China and Rwanda, Delaunay takes over the leadership of MSF-USA at a time when the need to provide humanitarian assistance to people trapped in war zones is increasing dramatically while the dangers and obstacles to the provision of aid in places such as Somalia and Pakistan has escalated markedly.
"The principle of providing independent and impartial medical care to people trapped by wars, epidemics, or natural disasters regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, or political ideology that guides the work of MSF medical teams around the world has really taken hold in the U.S.," said Sophie Delaunay, Executive Director of MSF-USA. "With hundreds of thousands of supporters across the country and hundreds of highly skilled and dedicated aid workers sent out on assignment through the U.S. office, MSF's foundation in U.S. society is critical as the fundamental principles of independent humanitarian action are increasingly under threat from governments and armed groups."
Delaunay joined MSF-USA in early 2008 as a senior program officer to lead MSF's advocacy efforts in the U.S. Prior to this position, she worked for 12 years with MSF in various capacities, including country administrator in Thailand and Rwanda, head of mission in China and for MSF's North Korea program. From 1995-1998, she was the administrative and financial director of Epicentre, MSF's epidemiological research center. She recently served on the boards of MSF France and Epicentre.
"I take over the leadership of MSF-USA today with the same passion and conviction that drove me to accept my first field assignment in Thailand assisting the tens of thousands of refugees from Southeast Asia's wars and to find creative ways to provide AIDS treatment in China and care for North Korean refugees," said Delaunay. "MSF has been to me and has remained over time, the most formidable professional and human adventure that I could imagine undertaking. With the support of a strong board of directors and management team, I will leverage a blend of enthusiasm and experience cultivated from years on the field putting MSF's principles into practice to lead MSF-USA through a period of economic uncertainty and a changing political landscape in the U.S."
As head of the program department of ESTHER, the French government's funding agency to combat AIDS, Delaunay knows intimately the challenges of confronting the twin epidemics of HIV and tuberculosis, a major priority of MSF's medical work. She holds a master's degree in International Business from the University of Le Havre in France and a master's degree in Political Science from Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea.
Delaunay replaces Nicolas de Torrenté, who during his eight years of stewardship guided MSF-USA through a tremendous period of growth and success. Under de Torrente's leadership, MSF-USA developed its focus from largely raising funds, recruiting field staff, and advocating on behalf of MSF’s patients into a deeper operational involvement, including building a team directly managing day-to-day operations of medical programs in Haiti, Nigeria, Somalia, and Uganda. MSF-USA's funding for emergency and medical programs increased from $33 million to $123 million annually, drawing on some 509,000 individuals around the country, during his tenure. In the past six and a half years, 943 highly skilled aid workers carried out 1,733 field assignments.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an independent international medical humanitarian organization that provides aid to people in more than 60 countries whose survival is threatened by violence, neglect, or catastrophe, primarily due to armed conflict, epidemics, malnutrition, exclusion from health care, or natural disasters. In 1999, MSF received the Nobel Peace Prize.