Special Initiatives & Emergency Response

A unique collaboration protects MSF healthcare workers during COVID-19

Around the world, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) provides medical care to people affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters, or exclusion from healthcare. During a pandemic such as the one caused by COVID-19, MSF’s work becomes all the more important.

But, since the start of the pandemic, healthcare workers worldwide have struggled to find the personal protective equipment they need to protect their own lives as they work to save others.

Competition for medical supplies—especially for personal protective equipment (PPE)—reached unprecedented levels, causing huge price rises and widespread shortages.

“Because of these shortages, back in April we reached out to the IKEA Foundation, one of the key and most generous partners we count on,” explains Valentina Rosa Deputy Director of Fundraising at MSF. “We asked if they could connect us with the IKEA team who was producing masks and gowns. We had read that IKEA was repurposing some production lines. The IKEA Foundation established the dialogue in a blink—literally a few hours!”

The IKEA Foundation is independent from the retail business with a sole focus on creating brighter lives on a liveable planet through philanthropy and grantmaking. Because of that independence, the IKEA Foundation could not address MSF’s procurement problems themselves, but they could put MSF in touch with the right team at IKEA, which enthusiastically took the project on.

A team of 10 IKEA co-workers got involved and had numerous conversations with MSF’s procurement team, which was in charge of fixing the PPE shortage problem for the entire movement.

Thanks to this collaboration, MSF ordered a few million gowns, which will be shipped to all of MSF’s mission countries. The order should cover the movement’s requirements for the foreseeable future.                 

“The unique outcome of this project is that MSF have been able to secure large quantities of protective gowns when virtually no gowns were available due to the global shortage that the pandemic triggered,” continues Lionel Bouché. “Thanks to this, we can appropriately support our healthcare workers in the field. The IKEA team’s contribution definitely had a great impact.”

Since 2013, the IKEA Foundation has supported MSF’s lifesaving response to several healthcare crises, including Ebola in West Africa and conflict in Yemen. The IKEA Foundation and MSF now have an agreement where MSF can access unrestricted funding, so they can respond to emergencies immediately. The IKEA Foundation also donated €3 million specifically for MSF’s work during the COVID-19 crisis.

Photo caption: MSF medical staff at the paediatric clinic outside Moria camp, Greece, working in full personal protective equipment.
Photo credit: Anna Pantelia/MSF