We provide free medical care to people who need it. It doesn’t matter which country they are from, which religion they belong to, or what their political affiliations are. When patients come to our medical facilities, we treat those who are in most urgent medical need first, no matter who they are.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is a global network of principled medical and other professionals who specialise in medical humanitarian work, driven by our common humanity and guided by medical ethics.
We work together in teams, small and large, to respond to the medical needs of people affected by conflict, disasters and epidemics and people excluded from healthcare.
We strive to practically provide medical care that matches the realities of patients, adapting care in order to be relevant and specific. At times, this may include partnering with other individuals and organisations, and working with local experts.
MSF team members are on the ground, working directly for and alongside patients, every day.
We bear witness and describe what is happening, to raise awareness about the experiences of the people we assist and the situations where we work. We alert the public to emerging crises, acute emergencies and serious challenges, such as exclusion from healthcare. We mobilise support for MSF’s work and social mission. We communicate to provoke change.
In conflict situations, we do not take sides, but go where people’s medical needs are greatest. In the ward of one MSF field hospital, you might find wounded civilians alongside injured soldiers from opposing sides. Hostilities and weapons have to be left at the gate.
MSF makes decisions based on our own independent assessment of the medical needs of people in distress. Our independence from political, economic, religious and other powers means that we can make decisions and take action based solely on medical needs and a firm commitment to our principles. Part of the reason MSF is able to do this is that we rarely take funds from governments or institutions for our work. We rely mainly on the generosity of individual members of the public from all over the world. Over 90 per cent of our income comes from private donors, most of whom give small amounts, often on a regular basis. MSF Southern Africa does not accept any funding from any government.
Neutrality is not synonymous with silence. Our proximity to people in distress implies a duty to raise awareness of their plight to ultimately help improve their situation. We may seek to bring attention to extreme need and suffering, when access to lifesaving medical care is hindered, when our teams witness extreme acts of violence, when crises are neglected, or when the provision of aid is abused.
We take responsibility for accounting for our actions to our patients and donors and being transparent about the choices we make. Evaluations, critical reviews and debates on our field practices, our public positioning and on wider humanitarian issues, are necessary to improve what we do.
Our Commitment to Responsible Behaviour
Within MSF, all members of staff and operational partners (including consultants and guests) understand and adhere to the commitments below, incorporate them into our professional and personal conduct, and abide by them. Should this not be the case, MSF offers channels for reporting at every level of the organisation and any non-compliance will carry serious consequences.
These Behavioural Commitments are considered as minimum behavioural standards, more specific rules may apply to MSF staff members depending on the context in which they work and their area of activity.
- MSF staff members and operational partners shall behave respectfully and not discriminate against patients, colleagues or members of the local communities on the basis of their race, opinions, lifestyle, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, origin, religion or beliefs and other markers of identity.
- MSF staff members and operational partners shall not abuse anyone physically (i.e. physical violence, sexual aggression or other forms of physical abuse) or psychologically (e.g. bullying, abuse of power, harassment, discrimination or favouritism).
- MSF staff members and operational partners shall not accept, under any circumstances, behaviour that exploits the vulnerability of others, in the broadest possible sense (sexual, economic, social, etc.). This includes exchange of goods, benefits or services for acts of a sexual nature, including the use of sex workers' services while on assignment.
- MSF staff members and operational partners shall not accept child abuse, exploitation and violence and not engage in sexual relations with children.
- MSF staff members and operational partners shall not take advantage of their position for personal gain. Each member shall use MSF resources (including premises, goods, money, reputation, image etc.) with respect and care and in the interests of the organisation and the people we seek to assist.
2020 update, published on 12 July 2021
OUR ACTIONS ARE GUIDED BY MEDICAL ETHICS
MSF’s actions are first and foremost medical. The notion of quality care for the individual patient is central to our humanitarian objective. We seek to provide high-quality care and to act always in the best interest of patients; to respect their confidentiality, their right to make their own decisions and above all, to do them no harm. When medical assistance alone is not enough, we may provide shelter, water and sanitation, food or other services.