Chagas disease is a parasitic, systemic, and chronic infection that is endemic in 21 countries in the Americas. Migration of infected people can also take Chagas to non-endemic countries, which is something we have seen in recent years. It is estimated that around 100 million people are at risk of infection in the Americas, and around eight million people are infected. Of those, more than 95 percent have not been diagnosed or treated. It is estimated that there are around 56,000 new cases every year, causing 12,000 deaths a year.
SUCRE, BOLIVIA/NEW YORK—Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is launching a new project to ensure that people can be diagnosed and treated for Chagas disease in the town of Monteagudo, in the Chuquisaca department of southern Bolivia. In partnership with local health care institutions, the international medical humanitarian organization will develop a comprehensive care model for primary and secondary care that will be integrated into the existing health care system.
"This partnership model aims to achieve greater empowerment for national authorities and, therefore, improve the sustainability of the program over time," said Martin Cazenave, MSF general coordinator in the country. "The idea is that the intervention model be replicated in the future in other municipalities and without the need for MSF’s direct participation."
Last March, MSF offered an introductory workshop on diagnosing and treating Chagas disease for health care staff in the municipality, which was also attended by staff from the surrounding areas.
"The enthusiasm and participation far exceeded our expectations," said Cazenave. "About 130 people attended. If we have ever underestimated the interest of health personnel in areas affected by Chagas disease, this was enough to show that we were wrong."
This workshop forms part of the training activities that the organization will carry out, in addition to providing technical support to the health care system in order to improve access to diagnosis and treatment.
The new project in Monteagudo will last two years, until the end of 2016.
Currently, Chuquisaca has the greatest prevalence of Chagas in the country, along with Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, and Tarija. The main vector, Triatoma infestans, originates from these areas and has proven itself to be highly adaptable, which makes it more difficult to control the bugs that transmit the disease, as well as tackle the disease itself in a comprehensive manner.
MSF has worked in Bolivia since 1986. It is estimated that over one million people suffer from Chagas disease in Bolivia. Since 2002, MSF has worked continuously on Chagas programs in Bolivia, where less than 4 percent of sufferers receive the treatment they need.