Doctors Without Borders

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Posted By Paula Nourse

In 1999 Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders, was recognized by the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Countries worldwide have welcomed MFS' "boundless readiness to provide medical care in crisis situations. They do this despite potential political complications and dangers they might encounter. (1)

The organization's mission statement states that "MSF provides impartial medical relief to the victims of war, disease, and natural or other disasters, regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation."

The MSF employs locals as medical and operational support staff among its policies. I applaud this policy because it demonstrates that the organization respects local inhabitants and supports the local economy. In addition, this policy should promote harmony in foreign environments.

In fulfilling Médecins Sans Frontières' mission, in my opinion, the organization's teams were nothing short of equal parts angelic, heroic, and life-affirming heroes. As a result, I became a donor years ago and remained a regular donor until recently.

In 2017 employees issued a written complaint to MSF leadership in the form of a letter signed by host country staffers from physicians and nurses to support staff. The in-country employees reported that MSF staff treated them differently based on the color of their skin. I withheld my donations to see how MSF would respond to the letter and situation.

I began questioning MFS's successful and admirable mission to provide "impartial care without regard to race and religion" when staffers accused MFS of discrimination against in-country co-workers. Did they also treat patients of color similarly, as "lesser than?"

According to Joanne Lu's article posted in May 2022 on the MSF website, "the reaction to MSF's progress report is mixed. Some believe it's a solid start. Others say a lot more is needed."

MSF itself agrees with both assessments: "This process of taking stock shows us where we are now, and how far remains to travel," MSF International's president, Christos Christou, penned the introduction of the report. He warned that "an intense cultural change" would be slow."

I hope that racial equality and mutual respect spreads throughout the MSF organization from a solid and level platform. I can't wait to send my donations again and reapply your MSF window decal on my car.

The MSF response was an official motion to address racial inequity in the organization; however, it was "infamously suppressed" in 2017. Nevertheless, to their credit, the letter was posted on their website.

In December 2021, MSF issued an action plan entitled Tackling Institutional Discrimination and Racism MSF Core ExCom Action Plan December 2021

Source: MSF Website Tackling institutional discrimination and racism: MSF Core ExCom action plan | MSF

  1. Source: The Untold Truth of Doctors Without Borders (

2. Source: MSF Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (

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