A mother and child rest in the pediatric ward of MSF’s hospital in the Bicentenaire area of Port-au-Prince. Active in Haiti since 1991, MSF has opened five hospitals, including this one, and fought a widespread cholera epidemic in the country since a massive earthquake struck in January 2010.
A girl selling food along the Congo River in Mbandaka, in Democratic Republic of Congo, listened this summer as an MSF health promoter explained that a cholera epidemic had been spreading along the river and had caused outbreaks in many of the towns on its banks.
In the immediate aftermath of last January’s earthquake, the potential of an outbreak of disease was a major concern. Months went by without it coming to pass, though, which seemed like a rare victory for the battered population. In September, however, word came from the Artibonite region in central Haiti, , that patients were presenting with cholera-like symptoms. Cholera had not been seen in Haiti in many decades, but the signs—rapid and severe dehydration caused by excessive vomiting and diarrhea—were all too apparent.
This past summer, a Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) team conducting measles surveillance in Nigeria followed a rumor to a remote village where 40 children had died of a mysterious illness, and more were falling ill.
From January 12 to October 31, MSF treated more than 358,000 people, performed more than 16,570 surgeries, and delivered more than 15,100 babies. By December 12, MSF had treated 62,000 cholera cases in 47 treatment centers around the country.
A nurse recently back from an MSF cholera treatment center in Port-de-Paix recounts what she saw, what was accomplished, and what remains to be done in the effort to battle the cholera outbreak in Haiti.
PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI, November 19, 2010 — Critical shortfalls in the deployment of well-established measures to contain cholera epidemics are undermining efforts to stem the ongoing cholera outbreak in Haiti, said the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today.
As the cholera epidemic continues in Haiti’s northern and central regions, a primary objective is to ensure treatment for affected communities dispersed throughout these areas. With Hurricane Tomas having moved past Haiti, MSF medical teams will be able to expand their support and activities.
MSF is treating more than 100 new patients with cholera-like symptoms every day in Petite Riviere, a city in the Artibonite River region north of Port-au-Prince. On October 27, 156 new patients were admitted to the center, and 177 were discharged. At the end of the day, staff were treating 179 patients.
The death toll from a cholera epidemic in Haiti topped 250 Sunday, and a handful of cases in the country's capital were confirmed, as government officials and aid groups prepared for what they call an inevitable spread of the disease.
ST. MARC, Haiti — Inside the courtyard of St. Nicholas Hospital, beyond the gate with the handwritten sign stating “Diarrhea Emergency Only,” lies a grim but unusually orderly scene at the epicenter of this country’s unexpected cholera epidemic.
Following an outbreak of cholera in Haiti's Artibonite region, MSF doctors, nurses, and logisticians rushed to the area to support the medical response and the effort to prevent the outbreak from spreading.
Patients jammed rudimentary clinics and health workers in surgical masks sprayed anti-bacterial solution on muddy paths as the government struggled to contain a cholera epidemic that has killed nearly 800 Nigerians in two months.
During the response to Zimbabwe’s cholera epidemic earlier this year, medical teams from Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) started to work in prisons across the country to treat cholera patients and prevent the spread of the deadly disease. As the four-month intervention is concluding, MSF’s project coordinator in Zimbabwe, Pip Millard, gives insight into the challenge of curbing an outbreak in penitentiaries.
MSF, already working in Lae, was able to mobilize quickly and assist the ministry of health in responding to the outbreak. Initially, an isolation ward was set up in the Angau Hospital, but when cases increased, a treatment center was constructed in the front of the hospital.
A high number of cholera cases have been found in the small city of Wasu in the first known cholera outbreak in Papua New Guinea in 50 years. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is assisting health authorities by treating people affected by the already deadly outbreak at the local Angau hospital.
In Murwira Clinic, southeastern Zimbabwe, Dennis Taronga is receiving antiretroviral (ARV) therapy with the help of MSF. Taronga, a husband and father of three who used to work as a builder, contracted cholera in January 2009 in the historic cholera outbreak that infected nearly 100,000 people and left thousands dead. This is his story.
In February, MSF released the report “Beyond Cholera: Zimbabwe’s Worsening Crisis” to draw attention to the humanitarian crisis ravaging Zimbabwe, most visibly expressed by the unprecedented cholera outbreak, which claimed thousands of lives. Now, six months later, the cholera has died down and the new unity government has been in charge for half a year. What has changed? MSF’s head of mission in Zimbabwe, Rian van de Braak, answered questions about the current situation.
Jane Hannon, a 39-year-old nurse from Baltimore, was in Manicaland Province in eastern Zimbabwe during November and December 2008. Here, she talks about trying to help people with cholera in the middle of a large-scale, rapidly spreading outbreak, in a country that has fallen into extreme disrepair.
Luis Maria Tello, MSF emergency coordinator in Zimbabwe, encountered a devastating scene when he arrived in the town of Chegutu, 100 miles south of the capital Harare, on December 12, 2008. “The situation was absolute chaos. There were no beds and patients everywhere,” said Tello. “People were dying of thirst because there was no water. Dead people were lying everywhere."
MSF has treated nearly 56,000 patients for cholera since the outbreak began in August 2008. The cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe is still far from being over, and MSF is finding increasing numbers of cholera patients in Harare for the third week in a row.
Dealing with cholera is different than other emergencies I have worked on. It was the speed of it that made it so different. When you enter an area with many people sick from cholera or a clinic completely overloaded with cholera patients, you know lives will soon be lost.
Zimbabwe's political and economic breakdown has led to abysmal access to public healthcare; a collapsed infrastructure; a crushing HIV epidemic; political violence; food shortages and malnutrition; internal displacement and displacement to neighboring countries. Above, more than three million Zimbabweans have fled to South Africa, including these children taking refuge in a church in Johannesburg.
Harare/Johannesburg/New York, February 17, 2009 —Zimbabwe's humanitarian crisis continues to rapidly deteriorate, causing appalling suffering, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warned today. The organization’s medical teams have now treated almost 45,000 people for cholera, an estimated 75 percent of the total number of cases in the current outbreak, and the crisis is far from over.
A cholera outbreak in Malawi that began in November has escalated considerably, with the number of cases growing by more than 100 percent in January. So far, 1,142 patients have been treated and 39 people have died.
Last week, the massive cholera outbreak in Zimbabwe exceeded the World Health Organization’s (WHO) worst-case scenario prediction of 60,000 suspected cholera cases. For the third consecutive week, this was the heaviest week for new cholera cases since the beginning of the outbreak, with approximately 10,000 newly affected people.
As of January 7, MSF has seen more than 16,000 patients with suspected cases of cholera in Zimbabwe. Currently, MSF teams are seeing an overall decrease in the number of cases at the projects where they are working. However, the UN has reported a major spike in cases – on January 6 1,080 new cases and 19 deaths were reported while January 5 saw 675 new cases and 59 deaths.
As a result of its worst cholera epidemic in recent memory, Zimbabwe declared a national emergency in early December. Cholera rapidly spread throughout Zimbabwe’s provinces and then into neighboring countries, particularly South Africa. According to the South African Department of Health, there have been more than 900 suspected cases. Recently South African authorities in the northern province of Limpopo declared Vhembe district, which borders Zimbabwe, a disaster area.
There was no major fighting reported in North Kivu this past week, but sporadic skirmishes between armed groups continued to drive civilians out of their homes and into the forests for days or during the nights, where they hoped to avoid being harassed. The overall improved security for Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) medical teams allowed staff to redeploy to areas where they had been running projects, and carry out evaluations and mobile medical clinics in the surrounding areas. In all MSF projects in North Kivu, cholera cases have been decreasing.
MSF has seen more than 11,000 patients since August in Zimbabwe’s worst cholera outbreak in years and has opened dozens of cholera treatment centers throughout the country. Cases have been found in nearly all provinces. More than 500 national and international MSF staff members are working to identify new cases and to treat patients in need of care.
MSF has been treating cholera in Zimbabwe since the latest outbreak started in August, and will continue to care for patients throughout the country as long as is needed. The outbreak has reached many provinces of the country and is greatest in the capital, Harare, and its suburbs, where MSF has set up two cholera treatment centers
An MSF nurse is standing in the middle of dozens of cholera patients lying on the dirt in the backyard of Beitbridge’s main hospital. Cholera has overwhelmed this border town of about 40,000 like contaminated wildfire.
In Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, MSF is responding to a major outbreak of cholera, which the local Ministry of Health has declared “the biggest ever in Harare.” MSF has set up cholera treatment centers (CTC) in Budiriro Polyclinic and Harare Infectious Diseases Hospital, where 500 patients have been treated to date and, on average, 38 new patients are admitted every day.
Annie Desilets is the project coordinator for Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Kitchanga in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu province. She’s with a team of more than 160 MSF staff working 85 km – or four hours by road – north of provincial capital, Goma. There are two camps in the Kitchanga area. One has an estimated 25,000 displaced people, while the other has 18,000. And the numbers are growing. The medical teams are concerned about an increase in upper respiratory infections and cholera cases
More than 10.000 people have been affected by a cholera outbreak that has devastated Guinea Bissau since May. The epidemic has already caused the deaths of 190 patients. After reaching epidemic levels, there has recently been a significant decrease in the number of admissions to the main cholera treatment center (CTC) opened in the capital, Bissau.
MSF has been responding to an outbreak of cholera in the Arua district of northwest Uganda since early January 2008. In the Oli neighborhood of Arua town, MSF is supporting a cholera treatment center (CTC) in collaboration with the Ugandan Ministry of Health. Medical staff at the Oli CTC have admitted up to 40 patients per day.
Since December 2007, cholera outbreaks have affected thousands of people in the cities of Lubumbashi and Likasi in southern Katanga province, Democratic Republic of Congo. For the last three weeks, however, the number of new patients at MSF clinics in these areas have been decreasing.
Cholera cases are still on the rise in Katanga province, in the southwest of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Since late September, a total of 4,029 cases have been reported by MSF emergency teams in the cities of Lubumbashi and Likasi. At least 97 patients have died.
Brussels, January 29, 2008 — Since the beginning of January, MSF has recorded more than 1,700 people with cholera in the cities of Lubumbashi, Bukama, and Likasi. All these people came from the poorer areas where bad hygiene conditions combined with high population density contribute to the flaring up of this extremely contagious disease.
Since the start of 2008, 767 people suffering from cholera have required treatment in a cholera treatment center (CTC) supported by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) the city of Lubumbashi, the capital of Katanga province and the economic center of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Endemic in West Africa, cholera has once again struck in Guinea. The arrival of the rains at the end of May, notably in the capital, Conakry, has created an ideal breeding ground for the disease to spread. Faced with an increasing number of cases, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has boosted its direct support of the local health services.
On April 17, 2007 MSF launched an emergency medical response in Afgooye, Lower Shabelle Region, about 30 kilometers west of Mogadishu. Due to insecurity in the area, MSF decided to dispatch a team of senior MSF Somali staff from Nairobi and the Dinsor Health Center to evaluate the needs of thousands of displaced people who poured into the town following major fighting in Mogadishu.
New York, 11 April 2007 – Since cholera was confirmed in Mogadishu on March19, 2007, the international humanitarian medical aid organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has treated more than 800 patients. However the recent worsening violence is making it increasingly difficult for patients to access MSF's cholera treatment center (CTC), which opened two weeks ago. The fighting is also preventing MSF national staff from reaching other areas of the city.
New York, November 29, 2006 — Following the latest outbreak of the cholera epidemic that resurfaced with the arrival of seasonal rains, the international humanitarian medical organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has reopened its previous intervention in Lubango in southern Angola. Since the beginning of November, the number of patients has continued to rise—1,427 to date—and mortality remains very high.
Since mid-July, cholera has emerged in various areas in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Though the number of patients with cholera is decreasing in some areas, in other areas the number of infections is rising.
Eight people —including a child under five— have died from cholera in Mornay, western Darfur, in the last two weeks. The Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) team has already treated more than 60 patients. This tragic situation occurred after various aid agencies withdrew assistance to people living in the Darfur displaced persons' camps.
Although the number of new cholera cases nationwide continues to slowly decrease, the outbreak in Angola has spread to provinces further from the capital, Luanda. Since February 13, when the first case was officially reported in Luanda, more than 43,000 cases have been reported nationwide and more than 1,600 people have died. In the last 24 hours, more than 280 people became infected and eight died.
The number of new cholera cases is slowly but regularly decreasing. Since February 13, when the first case was officially reported, close to 38,000 cases have been reported nationwide and more than 1,350 people have died. In the last 24 hours, more than 360 people got infected and eight died.
While the number of new cholera cases in Angola has decreased over the last few days, the epidemic is still ongoing. Since February 13, when the first infected patient was officially reported, more than 34,400 cases have been reported and more than 1,200 people have died.
Luanda, Angola, May 17, 2006 – The disastrous state of the water supply and sanitation infrastructure in Luanda and other large cities is the principal reason for the rapid spread of cholera in Angola. As of May 14, more than 34,000 people have fallen ill with cholera (17,500 in Luanda alone) and over 1,200 have died. Though the Angolan authorities have taken some initiatives to limit the spread of the disease, the international humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) calls for a dramatically stepped up emergency intervention by the Government of Angola and international agencies.
Luanda, May 5, 2006 - More than 27,800 people in Angola are now infected with cholera, up from 20,000 approximately one week ago. More than 1,100 people have already died, and the disease has spread to ten provinces. Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is operating cholera treatment centers in seven provinces and has treated more than 16,000 people and delivered more than 320 tons of medical and logistical supplies since the outbreak began in February.
Since February 2006, the Angolan capital of Luanda has been experiencing its worst
ever cholera epidemic, with an average of 500 new cases per day. The outbreak has
also rapidly spread to other areas; to date, 11 of Angola’s 18 provinces are reporting
Luanda, 13 April 2006 – As the outbreak of cholera is rapidly spreading in Luanda, capital of Angola, and to other parts of the country, the international humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) urges the Angolan authorities to officially declare the outbreak and immediately take all the necessary measures needed for controlling it.
Luanda, Angola, April 7, 2006 — With the number of cholera cases increasing rapidly in and around Angola's capital Luanda, the international medical organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) calls on Angolan authorities to quickly provide more resources to contain the growing outbreak.
Barcelona, February 22, 2006 - Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has started an emergency intervention in southern Sudan in response to a severe cholera outbreak in Juba town. The first suspected cases in the region were reported at the end of January in the town of Yei, southwest of Juba. Since then the disease has spread quickly. On February 6, the first suspected case was identified in Juba. The cholera outbreak was confirmed a few days later. After 15 days, by February 21st, 1,864 cases and 45 deaths recorded.
Some 35,000 people have sought refuge on the banks of lake Upemba in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), fleeing attacks on their villages and military operations in central Katanga province. Meanwhile, on January 6 an outbreak of cholera 30 miles north of lake Upemba, lead to 340 people being admitted for treatment in 10 days, including 14 deaths.
West African countries, including Liberia, Guinea, Mauritania, Guinea Bissau, and Burkina Faso, are facing a particularly bad cholera outbreak this year. In most countries, a large number of patients come from the capital cities. MSF, already active in fighting cholera across the region, has sent in more staff and supplies in response to the outbreaks.
Doctors Without Borders is approved by the Internal Revenue Service as a 501 (C) (3) tax-exempt organization, and all donations are tax deductible to the extent provided by law. Doctors Without Borders Federal Identification Number (EIN) is 13-3433452.