© John Moore/Getty Images
22 Sep 16 11 Jun 20

The MSF timeline

MSF teams are working hard across the world and have already saved millions of lives in 2018.

Currently, we are working in Europe to help refugees fleeing war, persecution and poverty. Our teams are responding across Yemen to provide lifesaving care to people affected by the conflict, as are our teams in places like Syria, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Iraq.

If you would like to find out more about our work in one of the 72 countries where we are currently responding, visit our countries page.   

To find out more about our work since our founding in 1971, use the timeline below by jumping to a decade:

1971-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-Present


1971-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-present


Diplomatic stand-off at sea

In June, 630 vulnerable refugees and migrants rescued by MSF and SOS MEDITERANEE on the Mediterranean Sea are denied entry to the nearest safe ports in Malta and Italy. MSF denounces Italy’s decision and other European governments’ choices of political point-scoring over saving lives at sea.

On the night of 9 and 10 June, Aquarius carried out six rescue and transfer operations over nine hours – all under instruction from the Italian Maritime Rescue Coordination in Rome.


The return to somalia

After our withdrawal from the country in 2013, MSF opens a nutrition programme in Somalia's Puntland region. Although security has not improved, our commitment to the people of Somalia, who face extreme suffering, leads us to dial up activities again. 

Rohinyga refugee crisis

From 25 August, more than 655,000 Rohingya refugees have fled Bangladesh, following targeted violence against them in neighbouring Rakhine state, Myanmar. Most are living in dire conditions in the refugee camps. In response, MSF expands its operations in the area, covering water, sanitation and medical activities for refugees.

In December, MSF surveys estimate at least 6,700 Rohingya were killed during a month of attacks in Myanmar.

Rohingya refugees cross the Naf River from Myanmar into Bangladesh, October 2017.

European governments aid business of suffering

MSF International President, Joanne Liu, sends an open letter to European government leaders regarding the detention of migrants and refugees in Libya: "It must be named for what it is: a thriving enterprise of kidnapping, torture and extortion. And European governments have chosen to contain people in this situation." 


EU-Turkey Deal

In a historic move in June, MSF refuses EU funding as protest against shambolic policy towards refugees and migrants.

Conflict in Syria and Yemen

The catastrophic conflicts in Syria and Yemen continue. Throughout 2016, attacks on civilans, hospitals, medical facilities and healthcare workers became sadly commonplace. In May, world leaders at the UN unanimously condemned these acts, but they continued unabated.

Borno crisis, Nigeria

Between April and July, thousands of children starve to death in Borno state, Nigeria, many beyond the reach of aid agencies. MSF speaks out about the situation and calls on the authorities and international community to urgently tackle the problem of widespread hunger, which is exacerbated by displacement and the fight against Boko Haram rebels in the region.


Kunduz attack

In the small hours of Saturday, 3 October 2015, our emergency trauma hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, is repeatedly bombed by Coalition forces. Forty-two people are killed: 24 patients and 14 MSF staff, along with four patient caretakers.

MSF Sea Rescue

At the start of May, MSF and Migrant Offshore Aid Station launch into the Mediterranean Sea on the MY Phoenix, a ship fully equipped with a medical clinic, to provide care for migrants attempting the perilous journey to reach Europe.

Conflict in Ukraine

In mid-January, fighting in eastern Ukraine escalates to a level not seen since the peak of the conflict in the summer of 2014.

MSF provides basic healthcare and medicines to people on both sides of the frontline, as well as psychological support.



In September, Jackson Naimah – an MSF physicians’ assistant from Liberia – gives an unprecedented speech to the UN Security Council saying that MSF has reached its limits and cannot continue to respond alone to the Ebola epidemic. He appeals for international help.

Later that month, MSF announces it will host three treatment trials for the virus in its centres in West Africa.

MSF restarts work in Myanmar

In December, MSF restarts basic medical activities in parts of Rakhine, Myanmar, after a nine month absence.

In the first month after restarting, MSF carries out 3,480 outpatient consultations.

Launch of the Missing Maps project

November sees the launch of the Missing Maps project – a collaboration between MSF, the British and American Red Cross, and the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team – which aims to map the most vulnerable places in the developing world so that individuals and organisations can use maps and data to better respond to crises.

Crisis in Gaza and the West Bank

Between July and August, MSF ramps up its work in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in response to Operation Protective Edge, the Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

On 21 July, MSF calls on Israel to stop the bombing due to the number of civilian casualties.

Ebola “out of control”

In June, MSF declares the second wave of the outbreak as "totally out of control" and calls for a massive influx of resources and reinforcements to be sent to West Africa.

MSF goes on to open 15 Ebola management and transit centres, caring for more than 5,000 patients. Fourteen MSF staff and hundreds of other health workers lose their lives to Ebola.

Response begins to unprecedented Ebola epidemic

In March, MSF begins responding in Guinea to what it describes as ‘an unprecedented Ebola epidemic’ due to the geographical spread of the virus.

The World Health Organisation states that MSF is exaggerating.

MSF halts operations in Myanmar

In March, MSF is ordered by the Government of Myanmar to halt its work after some officials accuse MSF of favouring the Muslim Rohingya ethnic group over Rakhine Buddhists.

MSF is forced to close operations in Rakhine, depriving nearly 750,000 people – mostly Rohingya – of medical care.


Civil war in South Sudan

MSF ramps up operations after wide-scale conflict engulfs South Sudan in December.

In April 2014, MSF severely criticises United Nations peacekeeping operations over what it calls a ‘shameful indifference’ to the squalid living conditions of 21,000 displaced people in Juba.

Typhoon Haiyan devastates the Philippines

MSF begins responding to Typhoon Haiyan shortly after it makes landfall on 8 November.

MSF provides care for emergency and everyday health problems in hospitals and mobile clinics, delivers clean water and helps to repair sewerage systems and health centres in some of the worst affected areas.

Chaos in Central African Republic

In October, MSF remains one of the few international medical organisations in Central African Republic responding to the increasing violence which has plunged the country into chaos.

Report of toxic nerve agents in Syria

In August, MSF reports that more than 3,000 patients showing symptoms of exposure to toxic nerve agents are received at medical centres near the site of a suspected chemical weapons attack near Damascus.

Launch of the TB Manifesto

In March, people living with drug-resistant tuberculosis, with the help of MSF staff, call for new drugs to treat multidrug-resistant TB. They call for the drugs to make treatment much shorter, more effective and less toxic.

More than 55,000 people sign the manifesto.

MSF withdraws from Somalia

In August, MSF closes all of its programmes in Somalia after 22 years of operations.

The decision comes after a long series of threats, kidnappings, extremely violent attacks on staff, and murders.

MSF helps people fleeing Mali

With tensions simmering in Mali, the French military intervene to suppress an Islamist uprising in January.

MSF continues its emergency medical work across Mali and assists people who have fled the conflict to neighbouring countries.


MSF responds to Syrian conflict

In July, MSF begins to run medical programmes inside Syria, although without authorisation from the Syrian government.

MSF initially sets up three field hospitals in the north of the country. One of the hospitals, located in a cave, would later be bombed after the MSF team leaves for more secure surroundings.

Refugee influx causes crisis in South Sudan

MSF warns of dire medical consequences as tens of thousands of new refugees cross from Sudan into South Sudan, finding refugee camps full and unable to provide the basic life-sustaining essentials.

The situation in Upper Nile and Unity States rapidly develops into a full-blown crisis as water supplies begin to run out and relief is wholly insufficient.

MSF vaccinates 117,000 people against cholera in Guinea

MSF vaccinates 117,000 people against cholera in the region of Boffa, 150km north of Conakry, the Guinean capital.

This is the first time that people in Africa were protected during a cholera outbreak by a two-dose oral vaccine.


MSF condemns attack on aid workers in Somalia

Two MSF colleagues, Phillipe Havet and Andrias Karel Keiluhuo, were killed by a gunman while implementing emergency assistance projects in Mogadishu.

Withdrawal from Thailand after 35 years

After months of negotiations and discussions with Thai authorities, it proves impossible to get permission to provide healthcare to undocumented migrants and vulnerable populations in Thailand that MSF believes are most in need of medical assistance.

MSF works with psychologists in aftermath of Japanese quake

MSF supports a team of six psychologists who treat survivors of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit northeast Japan on March 11th.

Providing urgent medical care in Libya

MSF finally manages to deliver medicines and medical supplies to Sirte, Libya, at the heart of the fighting.

For ten days,we attempt to deliver aid to Sirte where, according to doctors in the town, the healthcare situation had continued to deteriorate.


Earthquake in Haiti

After a massive earthquake hits Haiti on January 12th, MSF launches one of its largest ever interventions, expanding its projects in the country from three to a high of 26.

MSF treats more than 173,757 patients, and performs more than 11,748 surgeries in the five months that follow the disaster.

MSF and VII launch ''Starved For Attention''

MSF and the VII photo agency launch the "Starved For Attention" multimedia campaign on global malnutrition.

The ongoing exhibition, which has already been staged in the US, Europe, and Africa, highlights the often overlooked global scourge of malnutrition, its lethal impact on children in particular, and some innovative practices employed by MSF and others to combat it.

Flooding submerges Pakistan

MSF responds to massive floods in Pakistan by expanding existing programmes and establishing new ones in areas the organisation hadn’t worked previously.

By December, teams had tended to more than 80,000 patients and distributed nearly 2 million litres of clean water, along with almost 65,000 relief kits.

Cholera strikes Haiti

In October, after cholera hits Haiti, MSF mobilises hundreds of staff members to respond, eventually opening more than 50 cholera treatment centres across the country, launching widespread public education campaigns, and tending to more than 100,000 patients - more than 60 percent of all cases in the country - in the months that followed.


1971-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-present



Conflict in Gaza

MSF supports hospitals in Gaza following an Israeli offensive launched to counter militants firing crude rockets into Israel.

After a ceasefire is announced, MSF opens a surgical hospital and also offers post-operative and psychological care.

MSF re-opens programmes in Afghanistan

Following a five year absence (see 2004),MSF returns to the country and begins supporting hospitals in Kabul and in Lashkargah, the capital of Helmand Province.

A difficult year in Sudan

MSF launches emergency interventions in the south in response to escalating violence and outbreaks.

In Darfur, the government expels two sections and four staff members are kidnapped.

Some projects are therefore closed, but MSF nonetheless provides nearly 129,000 consultations and support numerous local health centers.


Political unrest in Kenya displaces thousands

MSF treats wounded civilians in the shanty towns of the capital, Nairobi, and assists displaced Kenyans in makeshift camps who flee to the west of the country after disputed presidential elections lead to widespread violence.


MSF treats more than 72,000 malnourished children as a massive nutritional crisis sweeps the south of the country as a result of drought, poor harvests, and soaring food prices.

Fighting cholera in Zimbabwe

After a cholera outbreak started in August, MSF treats more than 65,000 people suffering from the disease over the next 10 months while also supporting government-run facilities with supplies, staff incentive payments, and treatment programmes.

Violence escalates against civilians in DRC

MSF runs mobile clinics, surgical programmes, nutritional programmes, and provides treatment and counselling for victims of sexual violence as thousands of Congolese in North Kivu flee increased and repeated attacks on their villages by armed groups.

Cyclone hits Myanmar

MSF staff already working in the country provide assistance to thousands of people displaced by the cyclone while the government stalls on allowing additional staff to enter the country.


A new treatment for malaria

The Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative and the pharmaceutical company sanofi-aventis launch ASAQ, an inexpensive and easy-to-use combination pill.

ASAQ is not patented, allowing for others to produce it at lower cost.

Conflict grips Somalia

Hundreds of thousands of civilians flee the capital, Mogadishu, as the worst fighting in 15 years erupts throughout the city.

Amid great insecurity, MSF sets up a surgical programme in Mogadishu, provides assistance to some of those displaced, and maintains medical programmes in the rest of the country.

Ebola in Uganda

MSF teams confront an Ebola outbreak in Uganda. After carrying out a rapid assessment, MSF set up isolation units in the Kikyo health centre and the Bundibugyo hospital.

Crisis unfolds in Chad

More than 150,000 displaced people attempt to survive in makeshift camps in eastern Chad as fighting escalates between government and rebel groups.

MSF scales up its medical programmes and calls for a massive international humanitarian response.


Measles vaccination campaign in DRC

MSF launch a massive measles vaccination campaign in DRC. In only a few weeks, MSF teams vaccinate 359,318 children under the age of five.


MSF treats 26,000 people and sends more than 400 tonnes of supplies to respond to a cholera outbreak that spreads from the capital to more than half the country.


As tens of thousands of people flee renewed fighting in the north of the country, MSF reopens surgical programmes in north and central Sri Lanka after facing a series of setbacks from the authorities.

Surgical care for victims of war in Iraq

Unable to work safely in Iraq, MSF sets up a reconstructive surgical program in Amman, Jordan to treat severely war-wounded patients referred by medical colleagues in Iraq.


Nutritional crisis in Niger

MSF begin an emergency operation to treat tens of thousands of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition in various parts of Niger, opening seven in-patient centres and 27 ambulatory centres.

Earthquake hits Southeast Asia

MSF runs mobile clinics to reach people trapped in remote villages and sets up inflatable surgical tents to treat thousands of people injured in the massive earthquake that hit the Kashmir region of Pakistan and India.



MSF reacts immediately to the Asian tsunami disaster.

Within 48 hours teams were working on the ground and 32 tonnes of medical, water and sanitation supplies had been dispatched.

Thanks to the huge international response to the tsunami, the worst of the emergency was over by May.

MSF felt able to ask its donors, 99 percent of whom agree, to allow it to reallocate some of the funds received to other MSF emergency medical programmes around the world.

Meeting the emergency in Western Darfur

MSF open feeding centres, clinics and vaccination campaigns in western Sudan (Darfur) and Chad, where hundreds of thousands of people fleeing violence face starvation.

Afghanistan withdrawal

MSF pull out completely following the killing of five of its workers and the continuing threat to its teams by the Taliban.


Civilians suffer in DRC

MSF run dozens of medical programmes for people caught in the region’s chronic conflict.

DNDi created

MSF is a founding partner in the new organisation The Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative dedicated to developing medicines for neglected Diseases.

Liberia, 2003 © Francois Dominguez

Heavy fighting in the Liberian Capital

MSF remain in Monrovia to treat victims during fierce fighting between government and rebel groups.


MSF teams remain in Baghdad and challenge the US government on its failure to provide adequate medical care to civilians.


US-led Coalition invade Afghanistan

With many International staff evacuated, our programmes continue to operate led by Afghan staff.


Faced with skyrocketing resistance to common antimalarials like chloroquine MSF increase its use of artemisin-based combination therapy, and push for wider availability of this effective treatment.


MSF run the largest operation in our history, with 200 international volunteers and more than 2,000 local staff working throughout the country.

Aid Workers targeted

MSF worker Arjan Erkel is abducted in the North Caucacus, a victim of increasing dangers faced by aid workers in conflict zones worldwide.


HIV/AIDS pandemic

MSF start providing antiretroviral therapy to people living with AIDS in the following seven countries: Thailand, Cambodia, Cameroon, Guatemala, Kenya, Malawi, and South Africa.


Civil War in Sierra Leone

MSF treat victims of the country’s brutal civil war.

Asylum seekers flee to Europe

MSF expand programmes assisting asylum seekers and undocumented immigrants in France, Italy, Spain and Belgium.


1971-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-present



Launch of Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines

With millions dying each year from treatable infectious diseases, MSF start an international effort to push for increased access to medicines for the world's poor.


During NATO bombing of Serbia, we provide humanitarian assistance to refugees in FYR of Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro.

Second war in Chechnya

MSF call for access to Grozny and denounce the massive use of violence by Russian forces against civilians.

Nobel Peace Prize

MSF is awarded the Nobel Prize and honoured for its "pioneering humanitarian work on several continents".


Famine in southern Sudan

MSF respond to widespread famine caused by civil war and drought.

Civil war in Republic of Congo

MSF integrate treatment for survivors of rape and sexual assault into our emergency response.

Hurricane Mitch

MSF assist victims in Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador.

Famine in North Korea

Unable to ensure that medical aid was reaching the most vulnerable, we end our programmes after three years, but continue to assist refugees fleeing to China.


Rwandan refugee crisis continues

MSF fight for access to Rwandan refugees, many of whom are massacred or die of starvation and disease.

Rwandan refugees seek aid

MSF assist refugees forced out of camps in Zaire as they return home, but are blocked from assisting those fleeing further into Zaire, who fall victim to widespread massacres.


MSF medical and social programmes for vulnerable and marginalised youth are expanded.


Meningitis in Nigeria

MSF launch a massive vaccination and treatment programme helping 4.5 million people.


Srebrenica Massacre

Our team witness the fall of the UN "protected zone", and denounce the subsequent massacre of up to 10,000 civilians by Serbian troops.

War in Chechnya

MSF bring aid to civilians inside the republic and in refugee camps in neighbouring countries.


Genocide in Rwanda

MSF remain in Kigali throughout the genocide of more than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. We make an unprecedented decision to call for military intervention. One million Rwandan refugees arrive in the small town of Goma, Zaire. Within days, we collaborate on the biggest cholera programme to date.


War in Bosnia

Medical programmes in the region extend to the UN's supposed "protection zones" of Gorazde and Srebrenica.


Civil war in Burundi

A failed coup d’état in October resulted in 750,000 refugees fleeing to neighbouring Rwanda, Tanzania and Zaire.

MSF deploy 85 volunteers in the region but delays in the international relief effort cause widespread famine in the refugee camps.



MSF denounces ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

Emergency in the Horn of Africa

One hundred MSF volunteers work in the region affected by war, drought and displacement of populations.



Largest emergency relief operation to date. MSF provide care in Turkey, Iran and Jordan to Kurds displaced by the Gulf War.

Emergency in Somalia

MSF represents the only foreign presence in war-stricken Mogadishu, and aids refugees in other countries.

Former Yugoslavia

The MSF relief convoy evacuating the wounded from Vukovar hospital comes under attack. Three of our workers are wounded.


Civil war in Liberia

Our teams provide emergency care at the height of the fighting.

Afghanistan murder

An MSF logistician is murdered in Afghanistan. Activities suspended.


1971-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-present


Earthquake in Armenia

MSF provide medical care in the Soviet Union.

Iraq attacks Kurds. We were the first medical organisation that bore witness to the use of chemical weapons on the Kurdish town of Halabja.

Withdrawal from Sudan after an MSF plane is shot down by a missile, killing 4 people, two of them MSF volunteers.


Civil war in Sri Lanka

MSF organises mobile clinics and hospital programmes to treat injured and traumatised citizens in Sri Lanka.

Yemen intervention in Aden where fighting rages between rival factions of the ruling party.


Conflict in Central America

MSF provide medical care in Honduras to refugees from El Salvador and Nicaragua.

MSF expelled from Ethiopia

MSF is expelled by the government from Ethiopia after denouncing the hijacking of humanitarian aid and the forced transfers of populations by the latter.


Famine in Ethiopia

MSF starts programmes to treat malnutrition in hunger-stricken regions of Ethiopia.


MSF hospitals bombed

Bombardments of MSF hospitals in Afghanistan



“Walk for survival of Cambodia”, MSF's first international appeal, is launched in protest against the Vietnamese authorities stopping our teams from bringing aid to Cambodia.

War in Afghanistan

After the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in the final days of 1979, triggering a war that would last a decade, MSF medical teams clandestinely cross the Pakistani–Afghan border and travel by mule for several weeks to reach injured civilians living in remote areas.

First nutritional programme

In the Karamoja province of Uganda, MSF's first nutritional programme is launched in the midst of drought and civil war.


1971-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-present



MSF splits

Led by Dr Claude Malhuret and Dr Francis Charhon, MSF moves beyond its modus operandi of sending isolated doctors to crisis zones in favour of creating a more structured organisation that can provide quality medical services in crises.

Co-founder Dr Bernard Kouchner leaves in protest and later founds Médecins du Monde/Doctors of the World.


Refugee assistance

MSF launchs of various refugee programmes in Thailand, in the Ogaden region (Djibouti, war between Ethiopia and Somalia) and Eritrean refugees in Sudan.


Lebanon, 1979 © MSF

War in Lebanon

Our teams conduct surgery in the organisation's first major intervention in a war zone.


Cambodians flee Khmer Rouge

MSF establishes its first large-scale medical programme during a refugee crisis, providing medical care for waves of Cambodians seeking sanctuary from Pol Pot’s rule.


Hurricane in Honduras

Our first mission of long-term medical assistance.


Earthquake in Nicaragua

The earthquake in Nicaragua marks our first mission in a natural disaster.


MSF is founded

Médecins Sans Frontières is founded by a group of French doctors and journalists in the wake of the war and accompanying famine in Biafra, Nigeria, and the floods in eastern Pakistan (now Bangladesh).