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From Actions to Words

Geneva, December 8, 2011 – A multimedia exhibition looks back on 40 years of temoignage and medical action by Médecins Sans Frontières. Open to the public in Geneva until January 8, 2012.

This year marks two important anniversaries for Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF): it is the 40th anniversary of the organisation which was founded in 1971, as well as the 30th anniversary of the Swiss section. To mark the occasion, MSF has mounted a multimedia exhibition that looks back at the two main areas of the organisation’s work: temoignage and medical action. With the aim of improving the living conditions of the most disadvantaged populations, the MSF teams speak out against the unacceptable situations of violence that they witness first hand. The organisation also provides emergency medical assistance to those who only have limited access to healthcare, and this in more than 80 countries around the world.

A look back at MSF history

The story of MSF begins with the despair felt by a group of doctors who witnessed the silent drama unfolding in Biafra. Since then, the organisation has tirelessly spoken out about unacceptable humanitarian situations: In 1980, MSF revealed the misappropriation of international aid by the Vietnamese army in Cambodia. In 1999, in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, the MSF President, James Orbinski, denounced the indiscriminate bombing by Russian forces of the Chechen city of Grozny on live television. Earlier this year, MSF publicly condemned the terrible conditions in the Dadaab refugee camp, on the border between Somalia and Kenya. 

The aim of MSF’s temoignage is to speak out against extreme humanitarian situations and to improve access to care for populations in distress. These public condemnations are always accompanied by ongoing medical aid. More than 1,2 million consultations were carried out and 63’500 people were admitted to MSF hospitals in 2010 alone.

The exhibition – made possible thanks to the support of Swatch Group – takes place at La Cité du Temps, on Pont de la Machine, in the centre of Geneva. Through this video and photo installation showing a montage of pictures and archive footage visitors can discover four decades of the organisation’s history. Part of the exhibition also talks about MSF’s present-day work, with a focus on its projects in Dadaab, Kenya and Somalia. This exhibition is a way of remembering the silent victims of the tragedies MSF has encountered, as well as paying homage to those who, like MSF, have taken action and spoken out to help the most vulnerable.

From Actions to Words

From Biafra to the war in Libya: 40 years of temoignage and medical action

Exhibition at La Cité du Temps
1, Pont de la Machine
1204 Geneva (Switzerland)

December 3, 2011 to January 8, 2012
Open 7 days a week
9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Free entry

2010 – Médecins Sans Frontières Switzerland in figures

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is a humanitarian organisation that provides emergency medical assistance to populations in distress, in next to 70 countries. With a view to protecting those populations and alleviating their suffering, we also speak out publicly against unacceptable situations that our teams encounter in the field. 

  • 1971 – A group of doctors and journalists created Médecins Sans Frontières at the height of the Biafra crisis. They were guided by a particular idea of humanitarian action: combining medical assistance and advocacy to the general public.
  • 1981 – Foundation of MSF Switzerland. Among the 19 sections that the movement comprises today, MSF Switzerland is one of five operational sections that have teams in the field. It is headquartered in Geneva, with an office in Zurich and local branches in Bern and Lugano.
  • 1999 – MSF receives the Nobel Peace Prize.

Our impact in the field

  • 1,2 millions medical consultationsles.
  • More than 80’000 children treated for malnutrition.
  • 7’400 surgical operations.
  • Operations in 20 countries.

Our human resources

  • 998 expatriate volunteer placements.
  • 72 nationalities.
  • 13% of Swiss volunteers.
  • More than 3300 national employees hired locally.
  • 158 employees at the HQ, helped by volunteers. 

Our financial efficiency

  • 147.6 million francs spent, 91% of which directly on our social mission.
  • 82% of our funding comes from private donors.
  • Breakdown of expenditure
    – Operating: 89%
    – Fundraising: 5%
    – Management and communication: 4%
    – Witness testimonies, other humanitarian activities: 2%
  • Breakdown of funding
    – Private donations in Switzerland: 36%
    – Private donations from other MSF sections: 46%
    – Public institutional funds: 17%
    – Other revenue: 1%

Post account (CCP): 12-100-2



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From Actions to Words