Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature The BMJ Christmas Appeal 2014

MSF: how a humanitarian charity found itself leading the world’s response to Ebola

BMJ 2014; 349 doi: (Published 23 December 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;349:g7737
  1. Sophie Arie, freelance journalist, London, UK
  1. sarie{at}

Médecins Sans Frontières was there at the start of the current Ebola outbreak in west Africa and has played a pivotal role in the global response—building health centres, training care staff, and even advising the United Nations, writes Sophie Arie. The charity has decades of experience in bringing volunteer doctors to where they are needed in emergency situations and for longer term humanitarian projects. This is why The BMJ has chosen MSF for its winter charity appeal this year. Please give generously

Caring for patients who are sick, terrified, and sometimes delirious is hard enough. But working flat out in basic facilities and sweltering heat, while constantly aware that one small mistake could lead to care workers becoming infected themselves, makes treating patients with Ebola virus disease in west Africa one of the toughest humanitarian challenges of our time.

So imagine if amid that heat and pressure a care worker realises that a fly—known as an “acid bug” because if crushed it can burn and blister skin—has got inside her protective goggles. That’s what happened to a nurse working in a high risk room …

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