Our Humanitarian Action in 2019

Syrian Kurdish refugees who fled their homes in Rojava, northeast Syria, gather to receive winter clothes during a distribution in Bardarash camp. Iraq, October 2019. © Alexis Huguet/MSF

In 2019, Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) delivered emergency medical aid to people caught in some of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. This would not have been possible without our generous supporters. Thank you for sharing our belief that everyone deserves access to quality medical care.

Last year, more than 45,000 MSF staff worked to provide essential healthcare to people in more than 70 countries around the world. At the same time, we continued speaking out about the underlying injustice, abuse and neglect affecting people we assist.


Globally, an estimated 70 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes, many due to violence, insecurity and hardship. From Central America to the Horn of Africa to refugee camps in Bangladesh, our teams provided assistance to people on the move and advocated for their protection.

Extreme violence and poverty continued in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, where every year more than 500,000 people are driven from their homes. Our teams have witnessed levels of violence here comparable to what we have seen in the world’s worst war zones. Forced to flee, people seeking safety face the threat of more violence, torture and extortion during their journeys, usually through Mexico. Last year, MSF continued providing physical and mental healthcare to the migrants, refugees and asylum seekers who travel these routes, as well as to people who were deported to Mexico.

Despite growing humanitarian needs around the world, rhetoric around migration became increasingly harsh and dehumanizing. In August, the United States effectively closed its southern border to all non-Mexicans seeking asylum. This made the already precarious circumstances of the tens of thousands of people trapped along the border even more dire.

MSF restarted search and rescue operations on the Mediterranean Sea in August, partnering with SOS MEDITERRANNEE. But governments in Europe still sat idly by as thousands of people seeking safety remained trapped in Libya’s detention centres and thousands more languished in inhumane conditions on the Greek islands. MSF decried Europe’s flouting of refugee law while treating patients in both places.


Violent conflict persisted in many parts of the world, with terrifying consequences. In Yemen, the civil war entered its fifth year and has left the healthcare system in ruins. Economic hardship, active fighting and few remaining functional health facilities make accessing medical care difficult and dangerous. This is especially true for mothers and children, who often arrive too late for lifesaving care.

In Central African Republic, conflict was both a major cause of humanitarian needs, and the reason why medical services are so scarce. In Cameroon, where conflict has displaced more than 500,000 people since 2016, violence spiked again in 2019. And in war-torn Syria, millions of people forced from their homes still live in unsafe camps.


Large-scale measles outbreaks swept across several countries, including Cameroon, Nigeria, Chad and Lebanon. Democratic Republic of Congo was particularly hard hit, where the worst measles epidemic ever recorded continued throughout the year. At the same time, the Ebola outbreak declared in August 2018 raged in the northeast. MSF’s response to the Ebola outbreak was affected by challenges engaging with and earning the trust of local communities.

We continued speaking out about how the for-profit global pharmaceutical industry often leaves vulnerable people without access to the medicines they need to function or survive. Prices for lifesaving drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) drugs remain unaffordable and unavailable for the majority of people around the world who desperately need them. MSF has called on drug maker Johnson & Johnson to reduce the price of their DR-TB medicine bedaquilline to $1 a day.


Through the challenges, MSF responded to these and other humanitarian crises. In Mozambique, we launched an emergency response after cyclone Idai slammed down in March. In Bangladesh, teams continued providing humanitarian assistance to Rohingya refugees trapped in overcrowded camps on the border with Myanmar. And in Haiti, teams reopened a dedicated trauma surgery hospital in Port-au-Prince following a rise in violence.

This is the work you help make possible. In 2019, 96.2 per cent of our funding came from private donors, rather than governments or large institutions, giving MSF the independence to act rapidly and decisively, and to go where we are most needed.

Thank you for being a vital member of our medical humanitarian action. With the support of our donors, MSF will continue providing free, lifesaving assistance to those who need it most, no matter who they are or where they live.

Female doctor & president and male Executive Director of the MSF Canada organization
Dr. Wendy Lai, President and Joe Belliveau, Executive Director.