Why are we there?
- Endemic/epidemic disease
As many as one million people are estimated to be infected with Chagas disease in Bolivia.
People can live with this parasitic disease for years without symptoms. Complications develop in about a third of cases and can lead to death without treatment. Chagas is endemic across 60 percent of Bolivia and is commonly transmitted by the vinchuca bug (Triatoma infestans), which lives in the cracks and roofs of rural adobe houses. Only four percent of those people infected get treatment, owing to a lack of access to care. The government recognizes this as a major health issue and has been working to address it; however, Chagas treatment is not guaranteed or integrated into basic health care.
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has set up Chagas treatment programs over the years it has been working in Bolivia, particularly in Narciso Campero province in Cochabamba department, where the disease is especially prevalent. The health ministry has managed that program since 2013. In 2014, MSF teams focused on another priority area: Chuquisaca department, Monteagudo municipality, in Hernando Siles province. Hardly any of the 61,900 residents of this region have access to treatment. In partnership with the health ministry, MSF is working on a model of prevention and treatment to be integrated into the basic health care system.
MSF also collaborated with the health ministry in partnership with Johns Hopkins University this year to prepare the launch of EMOCHA, an e-mobile surveillance application. Upon detection of a vinchuca infestation, a community volunteer will send a free SMS to a central information system, and a vector control team will be deployed.
At the end of 2014, MSF had 12 staff in Bolivia and Paraguay (Bolivia and Paraguay come under a joint MSF program). MSF has been working in Bolivia since 1986.
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."