- About Us
- Our Work
- Work With MSF
- Public Events
- Press Room
News for the Week of September 13, 1999
September 13, 1999
Teams Forced to Leave East Timor
Escalating violence in East Timor forced MSF teams working in Dili and Baukau to evacuate the Indonesian territory last week. Three teams with a total of 13 medical and non-medical volunteers are currently on stand-by in Jakarta and Kupang, Indonesia, and in Darwin, Australia, in preparation for returning to East Timor as soon as the security situation allows. A full charter of relief materials has been flown to Darwin in anticipation of providing relief to refugees in West Timor and the resumption of MSF programs in East Timor.
Psycho-Social Program Opens in Sierra Leone
MSF has launched a psycho-social project in Freetown, Sierra Leone. An MSF clinical psychologist is working in collaboration with the Ministry of Health to train nurses and social workers as counselors who can offer psycho-social care to people suffering from war-related trauma. Sierra Leone has endured eight years of civil war which has not only cost thousands of lives, but also resulted in countless people suffering from brutal amputations of arms and legs. A psycho-social center is to be set up in Freetown where MSF mental health experts will train staff to treat clients. The project will later be extended to other parts of Sierra Leone. In Freetown, MSF is also supporting the local non-governmmental organization, Forum for African Women's Education (FAWE), which offers medical aid and psycho-social support to victims of rape and sexual abuse. MSF is providing training as well as medicines and medical supplies. The only psychiatric clinic currently operating in Freetown is Kissy Mental Hospital, which has been severely neglected and partly destroyed during the past years. It is now under rehabilitation by MSF, so that patients can be treated in more acceptable conditions.
Measles Epidemic in Eastern Congo
Measles has broken out in the Ituri district in the northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo, and the number of cholera and plague cases has also increased sharply. MSF has vaccinated nearly 35,000 children in the past week. A violent conflict that started in June is being waged in the Ituri district between two ethnic groups, the Hema and the Lendu. The war is reported to have already claimed a large number of dead and injured. There are also an estimated 40,000 displaced persons, many living in poor hygienic conditions and without good medical facilities. Health centers in the region have been looted, set on fire, or abandoned. As people are unable to reach their fields, there is a shortage of food. This combination of underfeeding, overcrowding and a low level of vaccination has resulted in a measles epidemic. Spurred on by the spread of cholera in the region, MSF has distributed medicines and water-purification equipment. Working with local health clinics, MSF is also examining measures that can be taken against plague, a disease that is endemic in the region.
HIV/AIDS Prevention Program Takes to the Roads in Cuba
As of August 12, the mobile AIDS-prevention project run by MSF in Cuba is on the road with its caravan. Fifty volunteers are traveling the country to give out information on safe sex, distribute flyers and condoms, and organize cultural events. Many of the volunteers themselves are HIV positive or living with AIDS. By the end of August, 15,000 flyers and 48,000 condoms had already been distributed. Public reaction has been enthusiastic and even the Minister of Health spontaneously praised the project. The mobile project is a joint initiative by MSF and the National Centre for STD and HIV/AIDS prevention.
Cholera Outbreak in Madagascar
Three districts of northern Madagascar (Ambanja, Ambilobe, and Nosy-Be Island) have been struck by a cholera epidemic. Twenty-four deaths and 279 cases have been officially reported since August. MSF teams are treating patients in the Nosy-Be Hospital. Poor sanitation and an insufficient water supply are also adding to the spread of the disease in Nosy-Be. An MSF water/sanitation volunteer is now working with the local authorities to help provide clean water and sanitation facilities in the area.