Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières in French) is a well-known charitable organization which operates in over 60 countries around the world. This group sends doctors, other healthcare professionals, and logistical staff to places around the world that are experiencing conflict, natural disasters, and epidemics of disease.
Doctors Without Borders was founded in 1971 by a group of French physicians and journalists. Doctors who had worked for the Red Cross during the civil war in Nigeria were appalled by the treatment of patients. French journalists were dismayed that more French doctors had not gone to help during the crisis in Bangladesh. Doctors Without Borders was created to make sure that there was medical help in those areas where help was needed the most. The organization also made it its mission to bear witness to the atrocities that doctors and staff observed while working to help others. For instance, in Ethiopia, Doctors Without Borders spoke out against the government’s treatment of famine victims.
Doctors Without Borders relies on physicians who are willing to commit to at least nine months to one year in helping in an area with critical need (although allow shorter periods for certain specialities like surgery where the work pace can be intense). Doctors are not accepted who are just out of medical school. A doctor must have been in practice at least two years of practice experience. It is preferable if the doctor knows French as well as English.
Doctors working with Doctors Without Borders need to expect that they will have to work in extreme environments. Doctors may have to travel into hard to reach places. They may be subject to all of the horrors of war. They may be in danger from fighting as doctors are often in the heat of the action as they work diligently to assist patients and those displaced by conflict.
Doctors are able to assist patients because Doctors Without Borders prepares medical kits that can be delivered to the field where aid is needed. These kits contain the medications and the supplies that are necessary for a specific situation. If doctors are placed in an area where there is an epidemic disease, the medical kits will contain the vaccinations that are necessary to keep the disease from spreading.
Doctors Without Borders was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts in 1999. The group was involved recently in helping patients in Syria and Libya. Doctors Without Borders in the course of its history has only left two countries because the staff was highly endangered.