Why are we there?

  • Endemic/epidemic disease

Our work

This is an extract from MSF-USA's 2012 Annual Report:

In addition to training local health staff, MSF teams in Bolivia carried out screening and treatment for Chagas disease in the communities of Aiquile, Omereque, and Pasorapa in Narciso Campero province, where Chagas prevalence tops 40 percent in general and nears 80 percent for people older than 45. Both treatment and screening are as rare as they are necessary; without them, the disease can cause severe damage, ultimately killing a patient, likely through heart failure.

To this end, MSF signed an agreement with the Bolivian organization Puente de Solidaridad and the local hospital allowing patients with heart and intestinal complications to be referred for specialist treatment free of charge.

Additionally, lobbying by MSF and others helped guarantee sufficient stocks of benznidazole, the most commonly used medicine for Chagas, which ran out in 2011 when the drug’s sole manufacturer ceased production. MSF also introduced a pediatric formulation for younger patients developed by the Drugs for Neglected Disease initiative (DNDi).

MSF nurse Miriam Quispe Brito underwent Chagas treatment before she became pregnant © Vania Alves

At the end of 2012, MSF had 67 staff in Bolivia and Paraguay (Bolivia and Paraguay come under a joint MSF programme). MSF has been working in Bolivia since 1986.

Patient story

Angel, 55 years old, lives in Chujllas, a small community in a rural part of Cochabamba department.

"I wasn’t feeling well. I had some palpitations when I was sleeping. I went to the hospital in the town of Aiquile for a diagnosis. The results were that I had Chagas. But it was impossible for me to keep going to Aiquile for treatment. Six months went by and a friend told me that MSF was coming to Chujllas. ‘This is very important,’ I said, ‘we mustn’t miss this opportunity.’

The whole community met with the doctors. By that time I didn’t feel like working or even eating. I started treatment. I recovered. I hope others follow the treatment, as I am feeling very well now."

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