Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which pulled out of Somalia on Wednesday after 22 years operating in the war-torn country, is one of the biggest medical humanitarian organisations in the world.
The story of the organisation began three years before its official birth on December 21, 1971 when a team of French physicians and journalists, including humanitarian icon Bernard Kouchner, denounced what they described as a genocide in secessionist Biafra, in Nigeria.
The young doctors, there under the auspices of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), decided to act in their own name while all emergency humanitarian assistance was being funneled through established groups.
The campaign in Nigeria was the start of successive interventions and by 2012 MSF was providing humanitarian assistance in 71 countries -- from Myanmar to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan's strife stricken region of Darfur to Syria and Haiti.
MSF (Medecins Sans Frontiers) has earned a reputation for working in the toughest of conditions and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999.
Today it is a worldwide movement of 23 associations, bound together as MSF International, based in Switzerland, with thousands of health professionals, logistical and administrative staff.
It delivers emergency assistance to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics and pandemics, natural and man-made disasters and exclusion from health care.
In 2012 some 55 per cent of activities were carried out in settings of instability. More than 68 per cent of its programmes were in Africa, while 25 per cent were in Asia and the Middle East, and six per cent in the Americas.
MSF spent 944 million euros ($1.25 billion) over the year, of which 81 percent was spent on humanitarian activities and the rest on management and fundraising.
Almost 90 percent of its income came from more than 4.6 million private donors -- which helps to protect its independence from political, military or religious authorities.
Close to 32,000 MSF staff worked last year in 372 programmes.
MSF inspired a number of imitations -- including Hospitals without Borders and Reporters with Borders -- groups which set out to improve hospitals in hird world countries and to campaign against ill-treatment of journalists.