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From a group of doctors and journalists to an international movement: how has the MSF movement developed over the years? Learn about the creation of MSF and the major chapters of our history through the animated film, Once Upon a Time the MSF Movement.is short video.
Three hundred volunteers made up the organisation when it was founded: doctors, nurses and other staff, including the 13 founding doctors and journalists.
MSF is officially created on 22 December 1971. At the time, 300 volunteers make up the organisation: doctors, nurses and other staff, including the 13 founding doctors and journalists.
MSF’s first mission in 1972, is in Managua, Nicaragua’s capital, and follows an earthquake which destroyed most of the city and killed between 10,000 and 30,000 people.
In 1974, MSF sets up a relief mission to help the people of Honduras after Hurricane Fifi causes major flooding and kills thousands of people.
In 1975, MSF establishes its first large-scale medical programme during a refugee crisis, providing medical care for the waves of Cambodians seeking sanctuary from Pol Pot’s oppressive rule. In these first missions, the weaknesses of MSF as a new humanitarian organisation become readily apparent: preparation is lacking, doctors are left unsupported and supply chains are tangled. It marks a turning point and the movement begins to fracture.
From 1976 and until 1984, MSF is present in Beirut and other cities in Lebanon to treat all war-wounded. Each day, the team treats patients injured by shrapnel or bullets. Broken limbs and burns are also looked after. Materials and tools are insufficient or inadequate for the medical teams; there are no X-rays, no electric instruments, no ventilator, and no possibility to conduct extensive medical exams. The capacity to do blood transfusions is also limited.