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Transport: MSF on the move

11 Aug 18 | 07 Jun 21
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Transport: MSF on the move

Every day – on land, on sea and in the air – MSF uses different modes of transport to ensure that supplies, equipment and medical staff are where they are needed.

It’s complex, challenging and often dangerous work, in some of the world’s most extreme and remote environments. Here's how we get around.

Land Cruiser

An MSF Land Cruiser on the Kouango road in Central African Republic

The iconic MSF Toyota Land Cruiser 70 series is the backbone of every MSF project.

Rugged and dependable, MSF operates more than 800 of these go-anywhere vehicles across the globe.

Many have been customised to function as top-of-the-range ambulances, while others are used to transport people, goods and equipment.


Measles intervention in Boso Manzi Caption
Measles vaccines being delivered by motorbike from a hard-to-reach area of northern DRC badly hit by a measles epidemic.

Some terrain is too tough, even for 4x4s.

In Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), MSF runs mobile clinics by motorbike.

Known as the ‘bikers without borders’, these brave riders provide a lifeline to tens of thousands of people who would otherwise be deprived of healthcare. 

DRC has fewer than one hospital bed per 1,000 inhabitants and fewer than two doctors per 10,000 people.


Receiving supplies by air in Maban Caption
Supply officer Urshula Edwards helps direct MSF plane landings and takeoffs at the airstrip next to the Doro refugee camp in Maban County, South Sudan.

In the aftermath of a natural disaster or in the middle of a conflict, roads are often destroyed or dangerous.

We use cargo planes to quickly transport large quantities of medical supplies and aid to where they are needed.

We use light aircraft to help our teams reach the most remote communities, and to transfer patients to hospital.


Floods in Pibor Caption
An MSF helicopter lands to provide assistance to flooding victims in Pibor, in the Greater Upper Nile region of South Sudan.

The helicopter’s unique ability to take off and land vertically ensures they are often used by MSF to reach stranded communities in areas where runways are non-existent or have been destroyed by conflict or natural disasters, such as earthquakes.


Hospital Mobile Clinic Matchika Bambari CAR Caption
An MSF-supply truck makes its way on a difficult stretch of road from Grimari towards Bambari, in Central African Republic.

As well as carrying goods, MSF uses converted trucks as mobile clinics and laboratories.

In Uganda and Zimbabwe, staff in MSF’s mobile HIV units are able to diagnose patients within 15 minutes and start them on treatment on the spot.

In a world where more than half the 35 million people with HIV are unaware they are carrying the virus, these mobile clinics help prevent people from getting sick, and reduce the chances of them infecting others.

Boats and ships

Ocean Viking - Rotation 2 - Rescue 5 Caption
The SOS Mediterranée rescue team sails toward an inflatable boat in distress with 73 people on board. This operation was the fifth rescue of the second rotation of the Ocean Viking.

Boats and ships of all kinds are vital to the work that MSF does, whether rescuing refugees from the Mediterranean or delivering vital supplies such as shelter materials, hygiene kits, cooking utensils, blankets and mosquito nets to islands in the Philippines devastated by Typhoon Haiyan.

Horse and donkey

Sidama mother and child project, Ethiopia Caption
MSF teams travel on horseback and carry supplies by hand across difficult terrain in the Sidama Zone of Ethiopia.

In areas such as the Sidama hills of Ethiopia and parts of Colombia, horses and donkeys provide the easiest way of travelling through difficult jungle terrain to reach isolated communities and people cut off from healthcare.


MSF Measles Vaccination in DRC Caption
MSF staff board a pirogue - a long, narrow canoe made from a single tree trunk - to cross a river on their 125 km journey from Bondo to Monga, in Democratic Republic of Congo.

In many parts of the world where MSF works, large inland rivers operate like modern highways and the canoe is comparable to the car.

These canoes range in style from fast and sleek motorised canoes to traditional wooden dugouts.


Zimbabwe Caption
An MSF team walk on foot to access a village cut off by Cyclone Idai in Chimanimani, Zimbabwe.

When the mountain is too high or the terrain too rough, or when there are no cars, trucks, boats or planes to hand, sometimes the only option is to go by foot.

Each year, MSF teams walk millions of miles to provide healthcare to people in desperate need.