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2016: A year in pictures

20 Dec 2016

We look back on a tumultuous year that has seen an unbeatable spirit of survival and care shine through.

2016 may well be the year best remembered for its tumultuous political turnarounds, hardening attitudes to refugees and migration, and continuing devastating conflicts. Looking through over 10,000 images released this year (created between October 2015 and December 2016), however, a different reality reveals itself.

Whether you read it in the bravery and determination of our medical responses in South Sudan or Yemen; see it in the relief and trepidation on the faces of those rescued at sea in the Mediterranean; or feel it in the gentlest moment, between a mother and her daughter amidst heartache and turmoil in Nigeria; an unbeatable spirit of survival and care has prevailed in 2016.

Throughout the year, our photographers have been alongside our doctors, nurses, midwives, logisticians and other staff, on the frontline of our projects around the world. They have been there to bear witness, not only to the work done by our dedicated medical teams, but also, unflinchingly, to the intimate circumstances that surround each individual's story.

In each photograph here, there is both a personal story and a bigger story; one that led to the event that you see in it. But to see it you must look, not away, and for that we are always grateful.

Thank you.

1 | Kok island, South Sudan - Dominic Nahr

December 2015: Wading at dusk through the swamplands of Unity state, a Médecins Sans Frontières staff member carries a young boy as his family make their way to the relative safety of Kok island, where more than 2,000 people are sheltering from conflict.

2 | Leer, South Sudan - Dominic Nahr

December 2015: A girl waits with her mother to be seen by a nurse at Médecins Sans Frontières' hospital in Leer, South Sudan. The hospital, which has served the local community since 1988, has been ransacked and looted three times in the past two years.

3 | Malakal, South Sudan - Anna Surinyach/MSF

November 2015: A four-month-old grasps the finger of a nurse in Médecins Sans Frontières' hospital in the UN compound in Malakal, South Sudan, where she is being treated for tuberculosis. Some 48,000 people fled for safety to the UN compound after Malakal town was caught up in fighting between government and rebel forces.

4 | Leer, South Sudan - Dominic Nahr

December 2015: A Médecins Sans Frontières staff member monitors a boy with suspected rabies after he was bitten in the head by a dog. Forced to evacuate Leer hospital after it was attacked by armed men, the team is working in an abandoned building. If the boy tests positive for rabies, there is little the medical staff will be able to do to save him.

5 | Leer, South Sudan - Dominic Nahr

December 2015: Lines of displaced people wait for an aid distribution in the otherwise empty and destroyed town of Leer, Unity state. Many thousands of people fled fighting in the area, seeking safety in the surrounding bush and swamplands or in the UN compound.

6 | Malakal, South Sudan - MSF Photo

February 2016: Médecins Sans Frontières teams in Malakal worked through the nights of 17 and 18 February to treat the injured after fighting erupted in the UN compound. Much of the compound was destroyed and 18 people were killed, including two South Sudanese staff members.

7 | Malakal, South Sudan - Anna Surinyach/MSF

November 2015: A woman cares for her sick relative in Médecins Sans Frontières' hospital in the UN compound in Malakal, South Sudan.

8 | Kirkuk, Iraq - Badouin Nach/MSF

January 2016: A woman makes regular visits to Médecins Sans Frontières' mobile clinic, which operates in Kirkuk and in Salahedin, to get medical treatment. Like many in this part of Iraq, she has been displaced from her home and her current living conditions are poor. "We get the water from the canal - they truck it all the way here - but it's not drinkable, it needs treating. Some people died on account of the water. And then of course there is no electricity. But at least here we are safe."

9 | Sulaymaniyah, Iraq - MSF Photo

December 2015: MSF staff care for a baby in the newly-renovated intensive care unit of Sulaymaniyah emergency hospital, which is the only trauma facility for more than 2.5 million people in the region, including many people displaced from neighbouring conflict zones.

10 | Sulaymaniyah, Iraq - Ton Koene

May 2016: A young boy sleeps in his family's tent in Khanaqin refugee camp in northern Iraq. In the camp, Médecins Sans Frontières provides mental healthcare, treatment for non-communicable diseases and health promotion activities for people displaced by violence in neighbouring regions.

11 | Amran, Yemen - Rawan Shaif

February 2016: A woman and her children shelter in a camp on the outskirts of Amran, in northern Yemen, for people displaced from their homes by fighting between Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition.

12 | Haydan, Yemen - Atsuhiko Ochiai/MSF

March 2016: A staff member surveys the ruins of Médecins Sans Frontières' hospital in Haydan, Yemen, after it was destroyed by airstrikes.

13 | Haydan, Yemen - Rawan Shaif

May 2016: An eight-month-old lies on a bed in Al Thawra hospital, Hodeidah, Yemen, suffering from severe acute malnutrition, which is life-threatening. The conflict in Yemen has caused severe food shortages, and this is the second time the child has been admitted to the hospital's malnutrition centre.

14 | Aleppo, Syria - Karim Almasri

April 2016: A hospital supported by Médecins Sans Frontières in east Aleppo is protected with sandbags after it was hit by numerous airstrikes in April, killing one doctor and injuring several nurses.

15 | Aleppo, Syria - Karim Almasri

September 2016: A five-year-old child recovers from surgery to his abdomen after being hit by shrapnel in an airstrike on Al Sukkari neighbourhood in east Aleppo.

16 | Mediterranean Search and Rescue - Borja Ruiz Rodriguez/MSF

October 2016: Firas Hebili, a cultural mediator with Médecins Sans Frontières, talks to people crowded on board a rubber dinghy during a rescue off the northern coast of Libya.

17 | Mediterranean Search and Rescue - Anna Surinyach/MSF

May 2016: A woman from Ivory Coast cries after been rescued from a boat in distress on the Mediterranean. She was one of 435 people rescued from three separate boats on a single day in May by the Médecins Sans Frontières search and rescue ship Dignity I.

- WARNING: Some may find this image distressing. -

18 | Mediterranean Search and Rescue - Borja Ruiz Rodriguez/MSF

October 2016: People wait to be rescued from a dinghy next to the bodies of people who died during a crossing of the Mediterranean sea. Our teams rescued 246 people and discovered 25 dead bodies on the boat.

19 | Lesbos, Greece - Will Rose/MSF

January 2016: A father and daughter recover on a beach on the island of Lesbos after being rescued from a boat on the sea crossing from Turkey. Joint MSF and Greenpeace crews are assisting boats in distress off the coast of Lesbos alongside the Greek coastguard.

20 | Mediterranean Sea - Yann Merlin/SOS Meditéranée

May 2016: A woman and her baby look out of a porthole of a Médecins Sans Frontières search and rescue ship, run in cooperation with SOS Méditerranée, off the coast of Libya.

21 | Italy - Sara Creta/MSF

August 2016: Médecins Sans Frontières doctor Pierre Vachaud shares a joke with a young man from Eritrea aboard an MSF search and rescue ship as the crew prepare to land on the coast of Italy.

22 | Mediterranean Sea - Anna Surinyach/MSF

May 2016: On board our search and rescue ship Dignity I, people celebrate their rescue from a boat in distress. Some 435 people were rescued, most of them from Guinea, Mali, Ivory Coast and Senegal.

23 | Samos, Greece - Guillaume Binet/MYOP

March 2016: Mirza Hossain, from Afghanistan, travels with his family by bus to the ferry terminal on the island of Samos, from where they plan to travel on to Piraeus, on mainland Greece. Médecins Sans Frontières had stepped in to provide accommodation for eight families from Afghanistan and Syria who were left without shelter on the island as a storm approached.

24 | Athens, Greece - Sara Prestianni

August 2016: A young Syrian man waits in the City Plaza hotel, Athens, for a response to his relocation application following a journey by sea to reach Europe. More than 50,000 people found themselves trapped in refugee camps and temporary accommodation in Greece after the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia closed its border with Greece.

25 | Sid, Serbia - Alex Yallop/MSF

February 2016: Iwath, from Mosul, Iraq, protests against border controls outside a reception centre for migrants and refugees near Sid, Serbia. "We want freedom and a future - we don't have freedom in my country. I want to continue my journey, I can't go back."

26 | Piraeus, Greece - Guillaume Binet/MYOP

March 2016: A couple share a moment in the sunlight in a makeshift refugee camp set up in the shadow of the docks in Piraeus, near Athens. Some 5,000 people who intended to travel north found themselves stuck in the Greek capital when the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia closed its borders in March.

27 | Dunkirk, France - Jon Levy/MSF

January 2016: Herro, from Iraqi Kurdistan, carries her four-year-old son across the mud to her tent in the Grande Synthe refugee camp in Dunkirk, northern France.

28 | Tehran, Iran - Mahsa Ahrabi-Fard

January 2016: A woman adjusts her veil in our clinic in Tehran, which provides medical and psychological care for vulnerable women and children.

29 | Tari, Papua New Guinea - Jodi Bieber

December 2015: A woman receives medical care at MSF's family and sexual violence clinic in Tari hospital, Hela province, in the highlands region of Papua New Guinea. She sought treatment for lacerations after her husband cut her with a knife on the back of her head and both hands.

30 | Lake Chilwa, Malawi - Aurelie Baumel/MSF

February 2016: A fisherman on Lake Chilwa in Malawi takes an oral cholera vaccine as part of MSF's efforts to stem a cholera outbreak in Machinga, Phalombe and Zomba districts.

31 | Boga, Democratic Republic of Congo - Gabrielle Klein/MSF

October 2015: A mother carries her two children to Tchabi health centre to receive polio vaccinations during a community healthcare and health promotion programme run by Médecins Sans Frontières in Boga, Democratic Republic of Congo.

32 | Boga, Democratic Republic of Congo - Gabrielle Klein/MSF

October 2015: A health promoter talks to children and parents in the village of Rubingo, during a community healthcare and health promotion programme in Boga, Democratic Republic of Congo.

33 | Kolo, Democratic Republic of Congo - Diana Zeyneb Alhindawi

June 2016: A young girl receives a measles vaccination on the first day of an MSF vaccination campaign in Kolo, Bas-Uele province, Democratic Republic of Congo.

34 | Central African Republic - Pierre-Yves Bernard/MSF

February 2016: A doctor prepares vaccines before an unprecedented vaccination campaign, supported by Médecins Sans Frontières, to protect as many children as possible in Central African Republic against common childhood diseases.

35 | Central African Republic - Pierre-Yves Bernard/MSF

February 2016: Children crowd around as a Médecins Sans Frontières health worker screens a young boy for malnutrition at the start of a mass vaccination campaign in Central African Republic.

36 | Magaria, Niger - Louise Annaud/MSF

August 2016: Health workers examine a child with malnutrition and suspected malaria in a hospital supported by Médecins Sans Frontières in the Magaria region in southern Niger. The rainy season corresponds to the lean season, so malaria and malnutrition peaks coincide. For children in particular, this period of the year represents a real fight for survival.

37 | Borno State, Nigeria - Ikram N'gadi/MSF

August 2016: A mother places a cool, damp washcloth on her daughter's body to bring her fever down in the isolation ward of the general hospital in Damboa, Borno state, Nigeria. Her daughter is being treated for measles with complications. The most severe cases are referred to the hospital in Biu, two hours' drive away.

38 | Katwe, Uganda - Guillaume Binet/MYOP

February 2016: A Médecins Sans Frontières health worker communicates with an HIV-positive man who became deaf and blind after he stopped taking his antiretroviral drugs due to social stigma. Our teams go door-to-door to test people for HIV in Katwe, Uganda.

39 | Lumasi, Tanzania - Ikram N'gadi/MSF

February 2016: Refugees fleeing unrest and violence in Burundi find temporary shelter and food at Lumasi transit centre, across the border in Tanzania. They arrive either by crossing lake Tanganyika by boat, or by walking across the hilly hinterland.

40 | Lashkar Gah, Afghanistan - Kadir Von Lohuizen/Noor

June 2016: A girl with severe malnutrition is admitted to our therapeutic feeding centre in Boost hospital, Lashkar Gah, in Helmand province. The girl and her family are from an area that has seen frequent fighting in recent months.

41 | Lashkar Gah, Afghanistan - Kate Stegeman/MSF

May 2016: Operating theatre staff prepare a 20-year-old man for surgery at the MSF-supported hospital in Boost, Lashkar Gah, Afghanistan. The man suffered extensive burns to his face and arms after being involved in a bus crash on a motorway.

42 | Lashkar Gah, Afghanistan - Kadir Von Lohuizen/Noor

June 2016: A girl waits in the emergency room of Boost hospital, Lashkar Gah, in Afghanistan's Helmand province, which MSF runs alongside the Afghan Ministry of Health.

43 | Tumaco, Colombia - Lena Mucha

January 2016: Médecins Sans Frontières psychologists carry out a consultation with a woman in Tumaco, Colombia. Our teams provide comprehensive mental health support for victims of the armed conflict and other types of violence, especially sexual violence, in the urban area of Tumaco.

44 | Mayorsk, Ukraine - Christopher Nunn

March 2016: A Médecins Sans Frontières health worker sits in the back of a mobile medical clinic, run from a van, that serves the population of Mayorsk, Ukraine, near the frontline between government and opposition forces.

45 | Abastumani, Georgia - Daro Salakauri

July 2016: Kale Mantkava rests in his room in the tuberculosis hospital in Abastumani, a spa town in Georgia's mountainous Meskheti region. The sanatorium was built in the 1920s and continues to serve its original purpose to this day, though only 70 of its 200-or-so rooms are in a good enough state to house patients. MSF has worked here since 2014.

46 | Mumbai, India - Atul Loke/Panos Pictures

October 2016: A Médecins Sans Frontières doctor discusses treatment options with a patient with extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB), in our clinic in Mumbai. She is one of only a handful of patients with XDR-TB fortunate enough to access new drugs for her treatment. We have been providing free diagnosis, treatment and support to patients with drug-resistant TB in Mumbai since 2006.

47 | Port au Prince, Haiti - Corentin Fohlen

May 2016: This nine year old patient burnt her hand in the kitchen of her home. Three times a week she meets with Josue Toussaint, an MSF social worker, for physiotherapy at the burns unit in Drouillard hospital, Port-au-Prince.

48 | Port Salut, Haiti - Andrew McConnell/Panos Pictures

October 2016: A man sits with his son, in the remains of their home, near Port Salut, in southwestern Haiti. Hurricane Matthew tore through the Caribbean on 4 October devastating large parts of the island. MSF teams used every means of transport, including donkeys, to bring medical aid to some of the more remote communities in the mountains, cut-off by damage to bridges and roads.

49 | Harare, Zimbabwe - Rachel Corner/De Beeldunie

October 2016: Ashley, 19, is a member of an HIV youth support group at MSF's Epworth clinic on the outskirts of Zimbabwe's capital, Harare. The group focuses on getting across the message to young people and adolescents that they are not alone and that, with medication, they can live healthy and full lives. The sessions also tackle difficult subjects including how to break the news to a partner that you are HIV-positive.

50 | Katwe, Uganda - Guillaume Binet/MYOP

February 2016: MSF teams go door-to-door to test people for HIV in Katwe, Uganda.