Médecins du Monde

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Médecins Du Monde
Founded 1980 (1980)
Founder Bernard Kouchner and others
Type Medical humanitarian organisation
Headquarters Paris, France
Area served
Budget (2014)
€135 million
Website www.medecinsdumonde.org

Médecins du Monde (MdM; French pronunciation: ​[medsɛ̃ dy mɔ̃d]) or Doctors of the World, is an international humanitarian non-profit organization that provides emergency and long-term medical care to vulnerable populations while advocating for equal access to healthcare worldwide. Founded in 1980 by a group of 15 French physicians, including Bernard Kouchner after he had left Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF, Doctors Without Borders), the aid society which he had co-founded earlier in 1971. MdM was formed with a mission to provide timely emergency medical care free of legal and administrative restrictions, to work with local populations to ensure long-term sustainability of healthcare systems, and to advocate on behalf of client populations.The impetus for the foundation of MDM was Kouchner's split with MSF over certain aspects of MSF's policies. Kouchner felt that MSF was giving up its founding principle of témoignage ("witnessing"), which refers to aid workers making the atrocities they observe known to the public. While MSF still practices this principle under certain conditions, the organization has moved closer to a more neutral approach as a consequence of experiences from the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. In contrast to that shift in MSF's policy, MdM (Doctors of the World) maintains that humanitarian aid cannot be separated from politics, lest the aid become misused by politicians (e.g. by sending bombs, and then doctors).


Approximately 50 years ago, a group of French physicians were employed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to provide emergency medical services to affected populations in war-torn Nigeria. At the time, the International Red Cross (IRC) movement was the primary entity responsible for providing humanitarian emergency aid. While working in Nigeria, the French doctors found their work severely limited by certain characteristics and mandates of the ICRC: its bureaucratic nature made it difficult to respond quickly to disasters and crises; its humanitarian aid missions were contingent upon permission from state authorities; its aid workers were restricted from making public statements as testimony to human rights violations and genocide. This group of French doctors objected to the restrictions imposed upon their work by the ICRC and created the French Doctors Movement. An independent movement, its mission was to provide timely emergency medical relief free of the administrative and legal restrictions imposed upon the ICRC. In 1971, the movement was formalized and Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) was born.

In 1980, a group of 15 doctors who helped co-found MSF branched off to establish Doctors of the World (MdM). The mission of the new organization expanded the scope of its work beyond providing timely emergency medical aid. Doctors of the World provides healthcare in both developing and developed countries long after emergencies disappear from the spotlight. MdM offers long-term healthcare solutions, with a focus on sustainability and bearing witness to suffering. MSF and MdM have no formal affiliation.

Kouchner was president of MdM from 1980 to 1982. In 1989, the foundation of a second national MdM association in Spain paved the way for the creation of the international network of MdM. The MdM association in the United States founded in 1990 was the first non-European association. Currently, the international network of MDM consists of fifteen associations; they are in France (founded 1980), Spain (founded 1989), Greece (founded 1990), Italy and Switzerland (both founded 1993), Sweden (founded 1994), Cyprus (founded 1995 by Elena Theoharous[1]), Argentina (founded 1998), Belgium, Canada and Portugal (all founded in 1999), as well as in Germany, the United Kingdom, Japan, the Netherlands, and the US. The international network head office coordinates the network members from its office in Paris, France.

MdM USA[edit]

The first US delegation of Doctors of the World opened in 1990. This chapter ultimately disaffiliated with the network in 2006 and became HealthRight International. The current MdM USA chapter was incorporated in 2011 and has no relation to HealthRight International.

With institutional support from MdM France, the recent iteration of MdM USA will focus on the following four objectives:

i. Raise funds for network projects.

ii. Represent MdM International at US based humanitarian conferences.

iii. Assist in recruiting medical personnel network projects.

iv. Operate and contribute to domestic and/or international projects providing access to healthcare.

The Rockaways Free Clinic

In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in October 2012, Doctors of the World USA launched an initiative known as Treat, Connect, Restore in the Rockaways section of Queens, NY. This effort consisted of assessing the medical needs of affected and displaced residents of the area; connecting those with unmet health needs to volunteer doctors and other services; and supporting a locally-driven response to restore the health and well-being of the Rockaways community.

While instituting the Treat, Connect, Restore initiative, the deficit in the Rockaways healthcare infrastructure became starkly apparent to Doctors of the World USA. In response to situational observation and direct community requests, Doctors of the World USA opened its first domestic project in October, 2013. The Doctors of the World Rockaways Free Clinic provides free medical care to the uninsured and undocumented residents of the area. The Rockaways Free Clinic is committed to:

i. Providing primary and preventive care services to adults who are without medical insurance.

ii. Connecting clients with ancillary services including case management and mental health services offered on-site by partner providers.

iii. Ensuring all services are provided in a locally appropriate manner by regularly soliciting feedback and oversight from community leaders and clients.

iv. Continuing to address the larger needs of the Rockaways community through data sharing, stakeholder coordination and advocacy.

Mission and Values[edit]

MdM values healthcare as a fundamental human right and is committed to improving access to quality medical services for populations affected by poverty, disease, conflict, natural disasters or health disparities. MdM provides medical care under all circumstances, regardless of gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, religion, age or political beliefs. Standing out against discrimination, MdM bears witness to health inequity worldwide. MdM programs focus on four priority areas: Conflict and Crisis, HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease, Maternal and Child Health, and Migrant Populations.

MdM operates three types of programs to ensure both short-term and long-term accessibility to healthcare:

i. Emergency Response: focused on provision of emergency relief in conflict zones and after natural disasters strike.

ii. Post-Emergency Operations: focused on supporting the rehabilitation of local healthcare systems.

iii. Long-Term Development Programs: focused on building long-term local partnerships to address and fill gaps in healthcare provision.


Doctors of the World (MdM) is involved in multiple initiatives worldwide. The international network prioritizes four areas:

i. Crisis and Conflict Interventions: provision of medical supplies and personnel during epidemic outbreaks; support of civilian population during conflict; mobilization of services during longstanding crises, and natural disasters.

ii. Maternal and Child Health Outreach and Education: MdM works to combat high rates of maternal and infant mortality by improving access to basic healthcare services in areas where women and children have little or no means of receiving care. Many of MdM’s women and child health programs are based in rural areas, where affordable pre- and post-natal health services are unavailable.

iii. HIV/AIDS & Infectious Disease Advocacy and Control: MdM lobbies for a comprehensive approach to HIV/AIDS:

- Education and awareness raising

- Counseling and voluntary testing

- Treatment of sexually transmittable infections

- Prevention and treatment of opportunistic infections

- Prevention of mother-child transmission

- Access to antiretroviral (ARV) treatments

iv. Migrants’ Access to Healthcare: improving access to healthcare for migrants and securing the non-exclusion of chronically ill and at-risk populations.

Areas of Action[edit]

Doctors of the World (MdM) works wherever there is war, natural disasters, disease, famine, poverty or exclusion. Currently Doctors of the World (MdM) is providing care in 79 countries with over 300 programs in North and South America, Europe, Africa and Asia.


MdM has been involved in about 300 projects in more than 80 countries. In contrast to MSF, which primarily focuses its work on emergency aid work, MdM is equally active in short-term emergency aid, reconstruction and rehabilitation aid as well as long-term development projects for a period of up to three years. MdM has around 7,000 members worldwide, around 360 paid staff members and about 6,700 volunteers, about 1,200 of them working on-site in the projects of the organization. The income in 2003 was about 43.6 million euros, of which about two-thirds came from private donations and one-third from public sources. Of these funds, about 41.6 million euros were spent for its work.


The success of Doctors of the World field programs, both short-term emergency response and long-term development, is contingent upon strong partnerships with local organizations. Local groups and physicians not only provide the logistical support needed to navigate remote locations and linguistic barriers, but they help ensure the cultural sensitivity of MdM’s program initiatives.

For example, after Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines in November 2013, Doctors of the World was one of seven organizations to partner with the Filipino Ministry of Health. This partnership guaranteed that MdM emergency aid reached targeted vulnerable populations who may have otherwise fallen outside of the radar of relief organizations due their remote or inaccessible locations or lack of coordination amongst international NGOs.

In Lebanon, MdM is partnered with the Amel Association to provide care for Syrian refugees. The El-Ain center is part of Amel, a Lebanese organization that has been partners with Doctors of the World for over thirty years. In both of the centers supported by Doctors of the World, Syrian refugees and extremely vulnerable Lebanese have access to free primary and reproductive healthcare, health education and malnutrition screenings.

Financial Model[edit]

Every year Doctors of the World (MdM) publishes a financial and annual review in addition to IRS Form 990, all of which are made publicly available.

In 2012, the Doctors of the World international network had a budget of 113 million dollars and provided services to more than 6.5 million people worldwide. MdM allocates 78.5% of its budget to programs 15.5% to develop private funding sources and 6% for operating expenses.


In September 2008, two MDM workers were kidnapped in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, and later released.[2]

Surveillance by British and American intelligence agencies revealed[edit]

In December 2013, documents released by National Security Agency whistle blower Edward Snowden revealed that British and American intelligence agencies have been carrying on secret surveillance of several organizations that provide humanitarian aid, including Médecins du Monde. Leigh Daynes, Executive Director of Doctors of the World UK said that he was "bewildered by these extraordinary allegations of secret surveillance. Our doctors, nurses and midwives are not a threat to national security. There is absolutely no reason for our operations to be secretly monitored." Other humanitarian organizations targeted include the United Nations Development Programme, the children's charity UNICEF, and the head of the Economic Community of West African States.[3]

See also[edit]


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