Doctors without Borders Nigeria: What Do They Stand For

Médecins Sans Frontières also known as Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is a private international association which was founded in 1971. The association is made up mainly of doctors and other health sector workers but is also open to other professions which might help in achieving its aims.

Doctors without Borders Nigeria: What Do They Stand For


The Mission of Doctors without Borders is to provide lifesaving medical care to those most in need. The Association recognizes itself as an independent and global movement providing medical aid to where it is most needed most. The association boats in its independence, neutrality and impartiality in reaching out to those in need and all members of the Association are bound to honor these principles. These principles are observed in the name of universal medical ethics and the right to humanitarian assistance. Members are also bound to respect their professional code of ethics and maintain independence from all political, economic and religious powers. Members are also made to understand the risks and dangers involved in the assignments they are to undertake. They also are not entitled to any compensation other than that provided by the association.

MSF understands that Impartiality and neutrality do not mean silence. They have therefore been saving lives and speaking out for the disadvantaged since 1971, They do this by providing assistance to populations in distress, to victims of natural or man-made disasters, and to victims of armed conflict or terrorism. This is also done irrespective of gender, race, religion, creed, or political convictions. The commitment of the organization to independence and humanitarian assistance allows them to go where other organizations wouldn’t want to.

Another principle binding on the association is accountability to patients, staff and donors.

Doctors Without Borders operates in 70 countries around the globe. These include Malawi, Mali, Mexico, Mozambique, Myanmar, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan.

Work of MSF

MSF attends to all medical issues in the countries in which it operates. These include:

Access to medicines

Antimicrobial resistance

Chagas disease





Kala Azar



Maternal health



Mental health

Sexual and gender-based violence

Sleeping Sickness/Human African Trypanosomiasis




Yellow fever

Countries in Nigeria where the Association has been in operation include :

Kaduna, Zamfara Jigawa, Sokoto, Maiduguri, Kebbi, Jahun, Borno, Taraba, Lagos Niger, Rivers. The Association were in the above locations to tackle Endemic/epidemic disease | Healthcare exclusion

In the year 2014, the security situation went bad in many areas of Nigeria. This gave room to violence and displacement and resulted in a deterioration of people’s health and reduced their access to medical services.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF)therefore tried to provide healthcare to communities in need, but some clinics experienced temporary closures due to insecurity.

Healthcare for the displaced

Due to political instability, numerous attacks by Boko Haram, a terrorist group in Nigeria and security operations by the Nigerian army forced, thousands of people had to flee their homes.

About 400,000 internally displaced people settled in and around Maiduguri, the capital city of Borno state, with host families or in camps. Medical supplies and physicians were also extremely limited.

In August 2014, MSF began providing care to displaced people in two of the largest camps in Maiduguri.

MSF did this by providing weekly mobile clinics with doctors from estrella obgyn to treat malnourished people and offered antenatal care to pregnant women.

By the end of the year, 10,000 consultations had been carried out across the camps. A health surveillance system was also established to respond to disease outbreaks and launch vaccination campaigns if it was deemed necessary.

By the end of September, there was an outbreak of cholera. Within a month there were 4,500 cases and 70 deaths from cholera reported in Maiduguri. MSF, therefore, set up a cholera treatment centre with 120 beds and five posts for oral rehydration.

By the end of the year, MSF had supported the care of 6,833 patients, 40 per cent of whom were displaced people living in camps.

Focus on obstetrics

At Jahun hospital, Jigawa state, where there have been the highest maternal mortality rates in the country, MSF continued to support the emergency obstetrics programme, which admitted a total of 7,980 women, an 11 per cent increase over 2013. More than 5,700 births were assisted.

‘Kangaroo care’, a technique which is used in a low resource setting where incubators are unavailable was implemented. Women spend time holding their babies skin to skin, this was found to support infant development and wellbeing.

With MSF support, Jahun hospital also treats fistula. Obstetric fistulas are injuries to the birth canal, usually caused by complicated or prolonged labour. This results in pain, the inability of physical organs to control their discharge and often social stigma. MSF offers reparative surgery, and psychosocial support to help women to reintegrate into their communities.

 A total of 264 women benefited from fistula surgery in 2014.

Paediatric care

From the Noma children’s hospital in Sokoto, MSF provided care to children suffering from noma. Noma is a rapid-onset gangrene infection that causes facial disfigurement. It is most common in children under the age of six.

Although, the exact cause of the disease is unknown malnutrition, poor hygiene and unsafe drinking water are agreed to be among the risk factors.

Psychosocial counsellors carried out 90 group sessions and 12 individual consultations, and 50 children were admitted to hospital for treatment.

Nutritional and psychological support was also offered and corrective surgery is planned for 2015. Teams also continued to treat children with lead poisoning in eight villages in Zamfara state. Lead poisoning can cause brain damage, kidney problems and even death. As the numbers pf patients decreased over the year, MSF closed three outreach clinics but continued to lobby the Nigerian government to assist local villagers.

MSF Staff also screened children for measles, meningitis and yellow fever, treated over 3,560 for malaria and carried out more than 7,680 outpatient consultations.

Responding to disease outbreaks

In the Northern states of Zamfara, Kebbi, Sokoto and Niger state where there has been an outbreak of infectious diseases, The MSF Nigeria Emergency Response Unit (NERU) provided early warning and responded rapidly.

From June to December, NERU treated over 6,000 people for cholera in Goronyo (Sokoto state), Aliero (Kebbi state), and Mada, Anka and Shagari (Zamfara state). Some 330 people were also treated for meningitis in Aliero. Many times, the emergency team were limited in movement by banditry and attacks on villages.

 Ebola containment

MSF has also provided Ebola-related technical support to health authorities in Lagos and Port Harcourt. The association helps with isolation and contact tracing and providing training and public education.


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