June 7, 1999
Teams Evacuated from South Kivu, Congo
MSF volunteers in Bukavu and Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of Congo were evacuated last week due to tensions between rebel groups following the dismissal of the former rebel government of Wamba dia Wamba. The project in Kisangani will be continued by local staff as much as possible. At present there are still three international volunteers in Goma, where the situation is reasonably calm. The project in Durba, where MSF has set up an isolation unit for patients with the infectious Marburg virus, has also been able to continue operating normally.
Heavy Flooding in Peru
The city of Iquitos and the department of Loreto, located in the Amazon area in northeastern Peru, have been struck by serious floods as a result of continuous heavy rainfall. The authorities have announced that at least 150,000 people have been affected by the natural disaster and four people have been killed. According to press reports, 7,000 houses have been destroyed and nearly 12,000 hectares of arable land is under water. An MSF team has been dispatched to the region to identify the needs and determine a plan of action. The Ministry of Health has already asked MSF to supply yellow fever vaccines to the affected region.
Fighting Sleeping Sickness in Southern Sudan
Since MSF established a new sleeping sickness program in the southern Sudanese village of Ibba in February of this year, it has treated 500 patients. Villagers themselves had made an urgent plea for a treatment center to be set up. The disease, which is endemic in southern Sudan, has killed many thousands of people in the past and has now reached epidemic proportions. Sleeping sickness, or African trypanosomiasis, is transmitted by the tsetse fly. Without treatment it is fatal. The disease has two stages. During the first phase the patient only shows minor symptoms if any, while the parasite multiplies in the blood circulation system and the lymph glands. At this early stage the patient can be treated with an effective drug. However, most patients seek treatment only in the second stage, when the disease has affected the central nervous system. The patient may become psychotic and aggressive. As the disease progresses the patient becomes comatose and eventually dies. In the second stage, an arsenical drug, Melarsoprol, is used, or, if that one is not effective, a second drug, DFMO, is prescribed. The problem is that this latter drug will no longer be available as of July this year, since the manufacturer has stopped production for commercial reasons. MSF is looking at the possibility of enabling manufacture of the drug to be started again. The treatment center in Ibba has room for 200 patients, spread over four wards. At present some 5 to 10 new patients are being admitted per day. A number of the medical staff were previously trained in Uganda, where MSF is running a similar program. The project is coordinated from the Ugandan capital of Kampala.
New HIV/AIDS Program Opens in Ukraine
An AIDS-prevention program modeled on the successful MSF program in Moscow has opened in Ukraine. In addition to AIDS-prevention and education, the new program will also provide health care to patients living with HIV/AIDS. The AIDS problem in Ukraine is the worst in the whole of the former Soviet Union. On May 1, 1999, the Ukraine Ministry of Health estimated that 25,516 HIV-positive people were living there. MSF believes the actual figure may be much highter. Young intraveneous drug users are the most vulnerable to the virus. About 80 percent of those infected with HIV are intraveneous drug users. Drugs are injected mainly by unemployed young people and students. The epidemic is particularly severe in mining and industrial cities in the east and in seaports, like Odessa, in the south. So far there has been no effective response by the authorities to the epidemic.
© 2013 Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)