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MSF in 2020: An extraordinary year in pictures

21 Dec 20
This article is more than one year old

MSF in 2020: An extraordinary year in pictures

MSF in 2020: An extraordinary year in pictures

For most of us, 2020 has been a year like no other. Our lives have rarely felt this closed off and the distances between our family and friends never so great.  

For an organisation like MSF – one powered by people who are dedicated to taking on complex medical emergencies – the impact of COVID-19 has, without doubt, become our biggest challenge in recent history.  

But other crises haven‘t stopped for the coronavirus.  

From measles outbreaks across central Africa to grinding civil war in Yemen, vast flooding in South Sudan to the terrifying explosion that shook Beirut and, most recently, the escalating conflict in Ethiopia that has evolved into a worrying refugee crisis

In every emergency, in every aspect of our life-saving work, the pandemic has pushed our teams to the limit – and we can only go to the length we have because of you.  

Taken throughout this extraordinary year, here’s our collection of pictures from just some of the moments that mattered in 2020. 

Samar is 3 years old. She came with her father to the MSF medical point to receive wound care. Samar was going with her father out of their building on the day of the explosion and the steal gate caused her facial injuries and burns. She already had reconstructive plastic surgery. MSF has established a fixed point in the Mar Mikhael and Karantina neighborhoods in Beirut, two of the areas most impacted by the blast, to provide medical support to the people affected by the explosion. The team provides wound care (dressings), rapid consultations for people with non-communicable diseases, as well as psychological first aid.

Medical care where it's needed most

The COVID-19 pandemic

A team of MSF medics support the treatment of patients with severe COVID-19 in an intensive care unit at a local university hospital in Geneva. 14 April 2020. Caption
A team of MSF medics support the treatment of patients with severe COVID-19 in an intensive care unit at a local university hospital in Geneva. 14 April 2020.

Of course, 2020 will be remembered as the year of the coronavirus. The images on this page include pictures from our response to the COVID-19 pandemic from around the world.

But, strikingly, they also cover a number of countries in which MSF teams worked on a scale that would have been unthinkable before the pandemic: nursing homes in Spain and the United States; hospitals in Brazil and Switzerland; refuges for vulnerable people in Belgium and France.

Refugees and displaced people

An MSF and SOS MEDITERRANEE team rescue 84 people from a dangerously overcrowded wooden boat, 71 nautical miles from the coast of Libya in the Mediterranean. Luckily, weather conditions were calm, as none of the survivors on board the unseaworthy vessel were wearing a life jacket. 18 February 2020. Caption
An MSF and SOS MEDITERRANEE team rescue 84 people from a dangerously overcrowded wooden boat, 71 nautical miles from the coast of Libya in the Mediterranean. Luckily, weather conditions were calm, as none of the survivors on board the unseaworthy vessel were wearing a life jacket. 18 February 2020.

Despite COVID-19, people continued to be forced from their homes in record numbers this year. The UNHCR reported in June that the number of people displaced worldwide has almost doubled in the past decade to 79.5 million. 

This year, we watched in horror as the infamous Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesvos was razed to the ground, leaving 13,000 people with nowhere to sleep.

Despite a life-saving maiden voyage in August, Sea-Watch 4 – a search and rescue ship on which we provide medical care for people rescued – was detained by the Italian authorities. This was the fifth such incidence of a civilian rescue ship being impounded in as many months.  

Medical care where it's needed most

Help us care for people caught in the world's worst healthcare crises.

Medical care where it's needed most

Medical emergencies

Phenduka Mtshali, a patient with drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB), at her home in Mbongolwane, a rural area of KwaZulu-Natal province at the epicentre of South Africa’s HIV & TB epidemic. MSF is currently piloting a model of care aimed at upgrading TB treatment. 13 February 2020. Caption
Phenduka Mtshali, a patient with drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB), at her home in Mbongolwane, a rural area of KwaZulu-Natal province at the epicentre of South Africa’s HIV & TB epidemic. MSF is currently piloting a model of care aimed at upgrading TB treatment. 13 February 2020.

Our staff and supplies were stretched to the limit by the COVID-19 pandemic this year.

As the race to find a vaccine surged ahead, our teams were busy providing vaccinations to tens of thousands of children facing measles outbreaks in Mali, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

And, in Lebanon, our teams set up fixed medical points to treat wounds and burns in Beirut after the 4 August blast that annihilated the city’s port and damaged swathes of the city. 

Conflict and insecurity

The Hamdayet border crossing, where refugees from Ethiopia cross the river into Sudan. New arrivals take whatever belongings they can carry with them, some have their livestock’s and  others left with nothing. 19 November 2020. Caption
The Hamdayet border crossing, where refugees from Ethiopia cross the river into Sudan. New arrivals take whatever belongings they can carry with them, some have their livestock’s and others left with nothing. 19 November 2020.

In countries like Yemen, years of conflict have pushed healthcare systems to breaking point. Now, the weight of COVID-19 has brought unbearable strain.

In Afghanistan, a hospital in which we work was brutally attacked by an unknown armed group in a horrific moment that rocked MSF to its foundations.

Towards the end of 2020, a conflict erupted in north Ethiopia, sending thousands of people fleeing over the border into Sudan where we are providing medical care.