Feature The BMJ Christmas Appeal 2014

“The west African Ebola disaster has stretched us to near breaking point”: MSF’s volunteer doctors need your support

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g7402 (Published 03 December 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g7402
  1. Fiona Godlee, editor in chief, The BMJ
  1. fgodlee{at}bmj.com

Médecins Sans Frontières is bringing much needed medical personnel to west Africa to help with the current Ebola outbreak, writes Fiona Godlee. The charity has decades of experience in bringing volunteer doctors to where they are needed in a crisis and in ongoing humanitarian projects all over the world, which is why we’ve chosen MSF for The BMJ’s Christmas appeal this year. Please give generously

Six years ago the The BMJ’s UK and global readership forged an enduring relationship with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF or Doctors Without Borders), after the journal chose it as its inaugural Christmas appeal charity.1 Since then MSF staff and volunteers regularly update The BMJ’s readers through blogs on thebmj.com about their rapid response and longer term projects to bring medical aid to where it is most needed (see http://blogs.bmj.com/bmj/category/msf/). The charity works in more than 60 countries, many ravaged by armed conflict, epidemics such as Ebola virus disease, or natural disasters.

Neutrality, independence, and local collaboration

This year we are delighted that MSF will once again be the recipient of donations from readers of The BMJ. We were again struck by the charity’s neutrality, independence, and collaborative ethos—a logical fit for The BMJ.

Why MSF? The current Ebola crisis certainly played a part in our decision, given its current focus (see www.bmj.com/ebola for all The BMJ’s coverage). You can see for yourself by watching a BBC Panorama documentary from last month that featured MSF’s British emergency doctor volunteer Javid Abdelmoneim at the charity’s Kailahun Ebola management centre in Sierra Leone (www.msf.org.uk/event/ebola-frontline-bbc-panorama).

But while Ebola may have the global media’s attention, MSF has long running projects worldwide (see www.msf.org.uk/where-we-work for an interactive map). In the Central African Republic, for example, 300 MSF staff, working alongside 2000 local colleagues, have provided 171 990 malaria consultations, treated more than 3908 patients for violence related wounds, and delivered 4182 babies in 2014.

The ongoing conflict in South Sudan has displaced more than a million people and forced health workers to flee. The new country’s destroyed infrastructure has left many thousands of people without access to healthcare. MSF has more than 3800 national and international staff working across 26 projects in the stricken country. In addition to responding to disease outbreaks, its teams provides surgery, maternal and child healthcare, vaccinations, emergency obstetric services, and treatment for malnutrition, kala-azar, HIV, and tuberculosis.

MSF can remain independent and neutral, while working alongside local agencies to provide medical aid where it is most needed, because it limits funding from governments and chooses to rely mainly on private donors. Between now and the end of January we hope to raise thousands of pounds to support MSF’s work.

Paul McMaster, chairman of MSF UK, said, “We are immensely grateful to The BMJ for selecting MSF for its Christmas appeal this year. Recognition and support from our own medical colleagues is especially appreciated.

“This has been a very difficult 12 months for MSF. This time last year Typhoon Haiyan struck in the Philippines. We continue to see very challenging situations in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Syria, and Iraq. These and many other places require MSF’s medical involvement.”

Near breaking point

McMaster added, “But in truth it has been the west African Ebola disaster that has stretched us to near breaking point. We have struggled to contain the epidemic and bring some relief to terrified communities and distraught families.

“This epidemic is still far from over. MSF continues to open new Ebola centres, putting in yet more medical teams, even though they face real personal risks and many return exhausted.

The BMJ’s Christmas appeal and the support of medical colleagues will allow MSF’s volunteers to continue to expand this effort. It is immensely encouraging to us all. Thank you.”

In the Christmas 2008 appeal The BMJ’s readers donated more than £15 000 to support MSF’s work in communities ravaged by armed conflict, disease, and natural disasters. Readers raised a similar sum in Christmas 2009,1 much of it earmarked for projects in Haiti after the earthquake in January that year. Let’s try to exceed that figure this time. You can find out more about volunteering for MSF at www.msf.org.uk/work-us.

Donating to MSF

  • £38 can pay for a suit to protect against Ebola virus

  • £53 can send a doctor to the field for a day

  • £95 can provide a year’s supply of treatment for a person living with HIV

  • £153 can provide lifesaving blood transfusions for three people

You can donate:

*UK mobile networks only. You will be charged £5, plus your standard network rate. MSF will receive 100% of the £5 donation. If you have any questions please call 0207 404 6600.


Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g7402


  • Competing interests: I have read and understood the BMJ policy on declaration of interests and have no relevant interests to declare.

  • Provenance and peer review: Commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.


View Abstract