Médecins sans Frontières – Half a century of Humanitarianism

The last couple of years have brought the world’s population face-to-face with humanitarian crises, not just as headlines in the news but as events that took place in our very neighbourhoods.
30 August 2021

Written by: Revathy Menon

The pandemic also brought to the fore the efforts and sacrifices of medical professionals and volunteers who were the first line of defense in our fight against COVID19. But even before this devastating medical crisis hit us, there have been organisations that have been at the forefront of tackling medical calamities in areas of armed conflict, in natural and man-made disaster zones and among impoverished populations – Médicins Sans Frontières (MSF) is one such. Esther Leick, Head of Communications, MSF Luxembourg spoke to us about the work of MSF and the importance of Luxembourg to MSF.

Half a century of humanitarian intervention

Last year was a big one for Médicins Sans Frontières. The international humanitarian organisation celebrated its 50th anniversary. Born of collective indignation at the humanitarian atrocities in conflicted regions, MSF was created in 1971.  Today with hundreds of projects spread across 70+ countries, MSF continues its work resolutely.

As a part of the 50th year celebrations MSF Luxembourg conducted series of events on the occasion of the visit of the international president Dr Christos Christou in Luxembourg. The programme included the opening of a Magnum exhibition at the Hotel Mélia, a conference evening at the CHL, and other events.

MSF in Luxembourg

“We are a team of 35 people here. Fundraising, communication and spreading awareness about our projects is some of the key work we do here in Luxembourg.” MSF also conducts Operational Research out of Luxembourg. The department, called LuxOR, comprises a team based in Luxembourg who undertake research projects to support the MSF’s work across the world. Find out more about MSF Luxembourg local events.


Luxembourg is a fundraising hub for MSF. “MSF is not funded by public subsidies. We are committed to staying neutral and independent in all our undertakings and that means we cannot accept donations from states or regimes,” says Ms Leick. According to MSF, 96% of its resources come from private donations. “The people of Luxembourg are very charitable and generous. The public in Luxembourg responded very well for our call for donations during the Covid crisis. Last year, more than 27,000 people supported MSF and this means that 1 in 20 people in Luxembourg donated and that is a great show of solidarity,” Ms Leick adds.

Covid19 and MSF

Some of the COVID19 work that was funded by these private donations, included the setting up of treatment and vaccination center, providing essential medical equipment and medications. But firefighting COVID19 meant that other projects suffered. As Ms Leick points out, “The travel restrictions that were in place meant that our volunteers, doctors and nurses could not reach the places where they were needed. Many of the ongoing non COVID19 vaccination campaigns that take place annually in places like Brazil and East Africa had to be stopped.”

  • Malnutrition Crisis in Madagascar

In what is considered to be a direct impact of climate change, consecutive years of drought (the worst known in 30 years), deforestation and subsequent sandstorms in Madagascar have led to a food production crisis that has impacted the country’s population in unimaginable ways. MSF has stationed doctors and medical workers on the frontline of this crisis to battle the fallout – severely malnourished children, diseases like malaria and intestinal parasites, lack of food distribution. To know more about the situation, watch this video and make your contribution here.

  • Haiti Earthquake

Recently added to the long list of disaster zones was Haiti which was hit by a 7.2 earthquake last year causing heavy rainfall and severe flooding. Médecins sans Frontières Luxembourg has opened an emergency fund. An emergency plan is being put in place in addition to the projects that have going on in Haiti for more than 30 years, such as the Tabarre hospital in Port-au-Prince.

Learn more about MSF’s work in this region and get involved.

  • Afghanistan

The most recent event to grab the headlines has been the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan. Irrespective of opinions and beliefs the fact remains that the instability is likely to seriously affect the people of the country. Médecins sans Frontiers’ has five project locations: Herat, Kandahar, Khost, Kunduz and Lashkar Gah – where people affected by the fighting were being treated. The victory of Taliban forces means the fighting has stopped and people are now able to move easily in the provinces. But as a result, MSF has seen an increase in patient numbers. Health structures are under great pressure with staff and equipment shortages. Stay informed on MSF activities in the region and make a contribution where you can.

  • Diseases control

The lesser known but the most pervasive and continuous work of MSF has been in the field diseases control and treatment in some of the most difficult places in the world. Be it Tuberculosis and HIV or sexual violence and even mental health, Médicins sans Frontières has sought to help those most in need with affordable medication and access to the best possible treatment. MSF doctors make 8 million visits annually worldwide, with activities ranging from vaccination campaigns to complex surgical procedures.

Volunteering and working at MSF

Contrary to what many may think, the organisation is not made of only medical professionals. MSF regularly recruits volunteers from all walks of life. Translation, graphic design, admin work, telephone campaigns and field work are only some of the areas in which you can volunteer if you want to get involved with MSF. The organisation holds regular volunteer information sessions and the next one comes up soon.