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News for the Week of May 24, 1999
May 24, 1999
Cholera Epidemic Persists in Nigeria
A cholera epidemic continues to rage in Nigeria. MSF has now set up five ORT (oral rehydration therapy) centers in and around the city of Kano in northern Nigeria, as well as a cholera treatment center in the Kano Hospital. In the space of eight weeks, 2,379 patients have been treated, 39 of whom have died. Serious cases of the disease are on the rise. Most new patients are severely dehydrated and require intensive "fluid management." MSF is beginning to train health educators in cholera prevention and distribute literature about the disease in mosques, and other public gathering places. MSF is also providing health information to water sellers, who supply the drinking water for more than half of all households in Kano.
Hemorrhagic Fever Detected in Kazakhstan
MSF teams are monitoring and seeking treatment for an outbreak of Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever in the Republic of Kazakhstan. According to the Kazakhstan Ministry of Health, which requested MSF's assistance, there have been 23 cases of Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever reported since April this year, and of these cases two people have died. The outbreak has occurred in the Zhambul, South Kazakhstan, and Kyzilorda provinces of the country. This virus is transmitted by airborne ticks found on domestic animals and livestock. The current cases in Kazakhstan have mainly been reported in people who shear sheep. Ten people with the disease are currently hospitalized, and the remaining 13 have been discharged. Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever is an infectious disease. A person suffering from it can experience symptoms ranging from fever, vomiting, headache, and rash to internal bleeding which may affect the kidney, liver, brain, or other organs. Fatality rates from the virus range from 15 to 70 percent. People can only transmit the disease through contact with blood and other bodily fluids, so the risk of infection can be easily reduced through simple precautionary measures. The virus has occurred in many countries, and is endemic in the former Soviet Union. Cases of hemorrhagic fever occur every year in Kazakhstan between April and July. To control the outbreak, the Ministry of Health has sprayed insecticide on farm animals and gardens, is using blood transfusions, and is treating the specific symptoms of patients. However, there are currently no drugs to treat this disease in Kazakhstan. MSF is helping the Ministry of Health in Kazakhstan to search for a supply of the antiviral drug Ribavirin to treat the disease.
Mass Meningitis Vaccination Campaign in Sudan
By the end of April, MSF had provided more than 3 million vaccines used to fight a severe meningitis outbreak that hit Sudan beginning in January 1999. Working in 7 Sudanese states (where some 18,000 cases had been reported by the end of April), Doctor Without Border's activities ranged from coordinating all aspects of the vaccination campaign in the displaced camps of Khartoum to providing consultation to the Ministry of Health in other areas.
Kofi Annan in Macedonia and Albania
At a meeting with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in Skopje, a consortium of non-governmental agencies working in Macedonia expressed their concern about the lack of protection for the Kosovar refugees. MSF and other organizations reiterated their support for the United Nations Hich Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which is trying to implement more principled and effective coordination of the humanitarian aid efforts. MSF takes the position that NATO, by acting as a humanitarian organization in the refugee camps, is threatening the impartiality and neutrality of humanitarian aid, both in the Balkans and beyond. "Western governments usually support the UNHCR financially, politically, and diplomatically to ensure protection and assistance to refugees, but in this crisis they have wanted their military to take a direct part in humanitarian efforts as part of their overall military activities," says Tim Pitt, the new head of mission. "UNHCR's ability to lead and to provide independent protection and assistance to refugees has been undermined. Refugees need a well-funded and politically robust UNHCR, that is able to protect their rights effectively, now and in the future." An MSF team in Albania made a similar declaration during Kofi Annan's visit to Tirana one day later.