Why are we there?

  • Endemic/epidemic disease

Our work

This is an extract from MSF-USA's 2013 Annual Report:

MSF handed over its Chagas program in Aiquile after successfully establishing an integrated prevention, diagnosis, and treatment strategy.

Chagas, a parasitic disease endemic in Latin America, is most commonly transmitted through the bites of infected vinchuca bugs, which are often found in cracks in the walls and roofs of rural adobe houses. The disease can be asymptomatic for many years, but if left untreated it may affect internal organs and can lead to heart failure and even death.

Treatment for Chagas in Narciso Campero province, where disease prevalence is estimated to be as high as 40 percent, has always been difficult both geographically and financially. The majority of inhabitants live in remote areas far from the urban hospitals and health centers that offer treatment, and which often charge a fee.

In 2009, MSF began an integrated Chagas program in the communities of Aiquile, Omereque, and Pasorapa. Working through community clinics and health centers, teams diagnosed and treated people aged one to 60 for Chagas, and trained local health staff. Significant efforts were made to raise awareness and the communities were involved in surveillance and control of Chagas through educational workshops, weekly meetings, and a radio show.

In September 2013, the project was handed over as planned to the Departmental Chagas Program of the Ministry of Health and the province’s Health Network Management. MSF is planning a new project in Aiquile, which will implement a sustainable treatment model that can be replicated in other locations.

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 program). 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."