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Safety and Security

MSF's primary mandate is to bring emergency medical assistance to populations in need. To reach those who need our help the most, we often work in conflict and post-conflict regions. Each region involves different risks according to the context in which our humanitarian intervention takes place.

As field workers for MSF, you will often be staying in insecure environments, where incidents will occur despite precautions.

We take risk management very seriously. We continuously analyze security levels in order to create regulations and rigorous safety precautions to minimize the risks. Field workers and local employees are obliged to follow these rules and procedures during the course of their assignments. Ignoring regulations puts one at risk of losing their job.

Safety regulations take into account the types of risk that field personnel are subject to. They include the procedures to follow in the face of various threats. In the end, the employee's behavior and attitude are the best protection.

When on assignments or projects of low risk, the rules are not always especially strict. It might not include a curfew and you may  get permission to travel by public transport or even enjoy a holiday in the country.

Many missions pose a moderate level of risk. There is often a curfew at certain times of the day. The staff must generally report any travels and where they are located. They always have  communication equipment such as radio receivers or mobile phones with them.

In some cases, there may be restrictions on contact with local personnel and local residents, choice of clothing or open alcohol because it can result in safety hazards to you and / or MSF.

Working on one of our projects means you will be perceived as a representative of the organization. Your words and actions will affect your own safety and that of your team. This responsibility applies both at work and at leisure.

On missions with a high level of risk, your movements may be severely restricted. You may have to follow very strict instructions and procedures introduced by the project coordinator or head of the mission.

In some situations, you may be forced to suspend your business and get yourself to a safer place. In most cases, you can return to your work later when the situation has calmed down.

In extreme cases, the security situation can be such that you can not leave, even that's what you really want. In such situations, it can be safer not to evacuate.

The Project Coordinator is responsible for the team's safety at the project level. The Country Manager is responsible for the security of the entire MSF mission in that country.

Team members must respect and follow these instructions.

Doctors and, in some cases, nurses together with the medical coordinator stationed in the capital, are responsible for field workers' health.

Each person, however, is ultimately responsible for their own safety. If you are not satisfied with the status of security, you can choose to leave the project (or mission) as soon as the Project Coordinator or the Country Manager deems it safe to do so.

MSF strives to keep you informed of the precautions necessary before traveling out. But the ultimate responsibility is yours.

We do not transfer management of our security to other organizations.

Working with MSF projects, you may face such risks as:

  • Environmental hazards like disasters, diseases and high stress are common in our projects. There are many ways to reduce the risk of diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, HIV, meningitis and hepatitis. One can take malaria medicine, vaccinations and use condoms
  • Traffic accidents are the leading cause of injury and death among field workers. The risk is increased because of driving habits and traffic discipline that may differ from Sweden. Traffic conditions can be especially chaotic and dangerous in conflict situations. Typically we use local drivers, but under certain circumstances, field workers can be driving themselves.
  • Petty crime is everywhere, especially in public places where many people congregate. Unfamiliar environments can be confusing and this can be exploited by thieves. Foreign personnel are also at greater risk of falling victim to fraud and robbery, including armed robbery and carjackings.
  • There is a risk, albeit small, of being the victim of violence. Women are also at risk of being subjected to sexual violence and therefore must be especially careful. In extreme cases, armed groups engage in looting, kidnapping or attacks targeting MSF and other NGOs. MSF personnel can end up in the crossfire or risk seriously injury and death because of unexploded ordnance, land mines, grenade attacks and aerial bombings. This is unusual, but a certain amount of risk exists. We recommend that you consider these risks before applying for field work with MSF.
  • Psychological stress is also a risk associated with working under uncertain, unpredictable circumstances.