Our Collective Impact in 2020

MSF mental health activities include conversation circles, theatre, football matches, dancing and singing. “We try to understand what people’s lives were like before they escaped,” says a member of the mental health team. Mozambique, December 2020. © MSF / Amanda Bergman

The year 2020 was marked by staggering levels of loss, fear and isolation as the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating consequences impacted people all over the world. Thank you for standing with us during one of the most difficult years in Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières’ (MSF) five decades of existence.

With the support of donors like you, MSF responded to crises in close to 85 countries, working with communities affected by violence, displacement and outbreaks of disease, all of which were exacerbated by the global pandemic. We also continued to speak out about the underlying causes of suffering experienced by the people we assist.


Throughout 2020, MSF teams worked with local healthcare staff to strengthen infection prevention and control measures, protect staff and treat patients with COVID-19 across five continents. As the epicentre of the global emergency shifted, for the first time this included well-resourced countries like Italy, South Korea and Canada. In these and other countries, we shared our expertise in disease outbreak response with a multitude of first responders and healthcare providers. At the same time, our teams worked relentlessly to overcome challenges related to COVID-19 in carrying out our primary work providing essential medical care for crisis-affected people in under-resourced places.

COVID-19 brought global inequities into stark relief, particularly as the push for vaccines began. Together with our supporters across Canada, MSF called on the government to demand that publicly funded health innovations – including for COVID-19 rapid tests and vaccines— be made affordable and accessible for those who need them most.


People in many parts of the world continued to be displaced by violence and insecurity at an alarming rate last year. In Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, ongoing conflict forced nearly 670,000 people from their homes by the end of 2020. Across the province, our teams supported local health facilities, ran mobile clinics in temporary camps and worked with partners to provide water and sanitation services.

In November, conflict erupted in Tigray, Ethiopia, displacing hundreds of thousands of people internally and toward neighbouring Sudan. MSF quickly mounted a large scale response on both sides of the border and became the main healthcare provider for displaced and host communities across the region.

Targeted attacks against MSF staff and facilities forced us to suspend or reduce our activities in several places last year, including in Taiz, Yemen and Borno state, Nigeria. In May, the maternity ward at the MSF-supported Dasht-e-Barchi hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan was brutally attacked. Twenty-four people were killed, including 16 mothers, an MSF midwife and two young children. We were left with no choice but to close the ward, leaving nearly one million people without local access to specialized maternal or infant care. 


In May, George Floyd’s murder in the U.S. forced MSF to assess our own progress fighting structural racism and inequity. Although only 20 per cent of MSF’s nearly 65,000-person global workforce are recruited internationally, they have disproportionate access to career mobility, pay, support and training.

Calls to action were heard from staff across the globe. MSF launched an actionable plan on racism and discrimination, including specific priorities to create more equitable opportunities for staff development and a review of how our global workforce is rewarded. In our Canadian offices, we continued to incorporate equity, diversity and inclusion principles into everything we do, from recruitment to fundraising and communications.


In 2020, MSF stepped up its recognition of and response to the humanitarian consequences of climate change. The MSF movement endorsed an Environmental Pact, committing us to further adapt our operational responses to people affected by climate change and environmental degradation, and to act decisively to reduce our own carbon footprint. We responded to intensified conflict across the Sahel region, in part linked to resource scarcity caused by environmental degradation. In Niamey, Niger, we treated a spike in malaria cases due to heavy rains and severe flooding. We also assisted people affected by storms in El Salvador, floods in Somalia and a hurricane in Honduras.


MSF’s ability to provide lifesaving medical care to people caught in crisis is made possible thanks to the incredible generosity of supporters like you. Together with private foundations, nearly seven million individual supporters from around the world raised $2.97 billion for our lifesaving work in 2020 – more than 97 per cent of MSF’s total funding for the year.

We do not take this generosity for granted. With the help of our supporters, MSF will continue working in solidarity with crisis-affected communities to deliver the highest quality care to those who need it most, no matter who they are or where they may be. Thank you.

Female doctor head and male president of MSF Canada organization
Dr. Wendy Lai, Outgoing President and Joseph Belliveau, Executive Director.