Medecins Sans Frontieres/ Doctors Without Borders

by Michael_Swan on Flickr


Médecins Sans Frontières/ Doctors Without Borders has been around since 1971 when it began as an initiative by a group of French doctors and journalists in response to need in Nigeria and Eastern Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Since that time, the organisation has grown to work in almost 60 countries around the world. Their main aim is to provide medical care to those who either do not have or have lost access. They do this “irrespective of race, religion, creed or political convictions”.


What MSF does

MSF provides immediate help where lives are threatened through conflict, natural disaster, malnutrition and disease. They also advocate for improved access to medical care as well as higher standards of care for all people. They maintain neutrality in terms of sides and aim simply to gain access to and treat those in need. They will, however, draw attention to serious situations that have not been picked up by governments in power or by media in order to affect change.


Where they operate

Child being vaccinated in Chad

By Mark Knobil via Wikimedia Commons

There are 19 associative organisations listed on the MSF website as: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States with Boards of Directors elected by the members. Volunteers are recruited in these countries. Countries where work is carried out vary depending on need but they are countries where gaining quality and affordable medical access is difficult for the general population.


Who can work with them

It is not only doctors and nurses who work with MSF. There are also lab techs, mental health workers, logistics experts and other administrators skilled in the medical and aid and development fields. Support roles are often filled by non-medical background applicants.

If you are interested in applying, you should first check the website for details and locate your local section. You must be able to get to one of the section offices in order for you to apply as you will be interviewed by a Human Resources officer before being considered for a posting. They do not take on volunteers without prior interviews.

Malaria Tester by Mastermaq on Flickr


What are the conditions

Living conditions can be very basic making this a demanding organisation to work  for. You need to have a strong sense of motivation and drive in order to succeed, but also know that the reward is great. Missions are generally about 6 months but flexibility is key as things can change once on the ground. Administrator postings tend to be longer.

Most volunteers work wherever necessary, administrators are usually posted in capital cities and logisticians may travel or be based in one place depending on the role. Volunteers are given a small indemnity and are covered by insurance for the duration of the posting. And, although it is possible, bringing a partner or family is fairly difficult logistically, as you can imagine. If a couple are both qualified to volunteer you may stand a better chance of finding a posting together.


How to donate

90% of MSFs funding comes from private sources and donations are handled through local offices. Contact the relevant section if you wish to donate.

plumpy nut by Mastermaq on Flickr



Have you worked with MSF?

If you’ve worked with MSF or Doctors Without Borders and can share your story, we’d like to hear from you. Please get in touch via the comments or through Twitter.



Médecins Sans Frontières

Doctors Without Borders



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