Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) was among the first groups to respond to the outbreak of Ebola when it became apparent in March 2014. It has remained engaged on the ground throughout the crisis, caring for the majority of patients in the affected countries of Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone.
The organization currently employs 300 international and 4,000 local staff, operating eight Ebola case management centres in the three countries. Since the beginning of the outbreak to the end of January 2015, MSF’s field centres have admitted more than 8,000 patients, among whom around 4,960 were confirmed to have Ebola. More than 2,300 have survived.
MSF was also a leader in pushing the international response. The organization sounded the alarm in June 2014 when the death toll across the three countries was rising, saying the outbreak was ‘out of control’ and calling for a stronger international response. On 8 August 2014, just over a week after MSF international president Joanne Liu personally appealed to her to do so, World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan declared the outbreak a global emergency.
In September, Liu was invited to address the UN Security Council, where she called for military intervention and aid and insisted that member states provide their expertise in biohazard containment to tackle the epidemic. Crucially, this was the first time since the genocide in Rwanda that MSF had called for such urgent action in this way. Within weeks, military forces from a range of nations were mobilized in significant numbers.
MSF leaders and staff, working under the motto ‘first in, last out’, have been instrumental in saving thousands of lives and have offered persistent and forceful voices to galvanize action to halt the Ebola epidemic.