MSF provides support to two centres set up in north Marseille to test and refer people testing positive for coronavirus.

Communicating and convincing: a humanitarian perspective on the French response to the coronavirus epidemic

Michaël Neuman

Director of studies at Crash / Médecins sans Frontières, Michaël Neuman graduated in Contemporary History and International Relations (University Paris-I). He joined Médecins sans Frontières in 1999 and has worked both on the ground (Balkans, Sudan, Caucasus, West Africa) and in headquarters (New York, Paris as deputy director responsible for programmes). He has also carried out research on issues of immigration and geopolitics. He is co-editor of "Humanitarian negotiations Revealed, the MSF experience" (London: Hurst and Co, 2011). He is also the co-editor of "Saving lives and staying alive. Humanitarian Security in the Age of Risk Management" (London: Hurst and Co, 2016).


Emmanuel Baron is a general practitioner who graduated from the University of Nantes. He spent several years working with Médecins Sans Frontières in the field and at headquarters. He was trained in epidemiology in London and joined Epicentre as General Director in 2008.

This article was published first punlished in Alternatives Humanitaires, in the section "Covid-19: Feedback and Future Challenges", on November 20, 2020. 

In this paper, the two authors examine certain aspects of the French response to the epidemic in the light of the experience of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in that field, primarily with respect to the relationship between the actors of the response and the beneficiaries.

While centuries of experience have taught humanity that there is no universal recipe for controlling an epidemic, we know that the response lies in a combination of political, social, economic, medical, and scientific action. Leaders in the field of epidemics recognise that while experience is a helpful guide, it is no guarantee. Practices have been defined to limit the number and improve the management of new cases, but their implementation requires having access to knowledge and skills that have been more empirically developed than rigorously demonstrated.


To cite this content :
Michaël Neuman, Emmanuel Baron, “Communicating and convincing: a humanitarian perspective on the French response to the coronavirus epidemic”, 2 décembre 2020, URL :

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