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November 1, 2011
This article is part of the Fall 2011 issue of the MSF Alert newsletter.
Libya 2011 © Ron Haviv/VII
Treating Survivors of Ongoing Violence
Despite the ostensible cessation of the fighting that wracked Ivory Coast earlier this year, violence against civilians has continued in some rural regions, particularly in the southwest. In mid-September, for instance, up to 16 people were killed and 50 homes were burned in an attack on the town of Zriglo. “Within a few hours of the attack being reported, one of our teams managed to reach Zriglo,” said Tara Newell, head of mission for MSF in Ivory Coast. “But they only could count the dead and the burned houses. The population, including the wounded, had already fled.”
MSF clinics in the region continue to see a steady stream of civilians who’ve suffered gunshot or machete wounds or been the victims of sexual violence. Teams have also seen evidence of other violent killings, some of which targeted children. The fear of harassment, extortion, or worse at armed checkpoints strewn throughout the area prevents many who need medical care from seeking it, however. In September, MSF issued a press release that called for all parties to the conflict to refrain from violence against civilians and to ensure access to basic services, including health care.
Libya: Aiding the Displaced, the Wounded, and Migrants
Heading into the fall, MSF was providing a range of medical services in Libya’s capital, Tripoli, as well as in Zintan, Yefren, Benghazi, and Misrata. These services included surgical care, maternal care, post-operative care, hospital support, and mental health care.
MSF worked in Tripoli’s Central Hospital until patient numbers decreased and local health staff returned to their posts. An MSF surgical team continued to work in Tripoli’s Ben Ashour clinic, handling orthopedic cases and treating a backlog of patients waiting for secondary surgical interventions. MSF also provided care to approximately 1,200 migrants and refugees in Tripoli who sought refuge from attacks by armed men in two makeshift camps that lacked water, food, security, and sanitation.
Additionally, after many attempts, MSF was able to send medical supplies into the town of Sirte, one of the last loyalist holdouts, where health care conditions had deteriorated badly. In October, MSF teams began supporting staff at Sirte’s Ibn Sina Hospital and treating patients from the area who were transferred to Misrata’s Qasr Ahmed Hospital.
MSF Fights Moves to Limit Access to Generics
India is often referred to as the pharmacy of the developing world because the vast majority of medications used in poorer countries are manufactured by its robust generics industry. The multinational pharmaceutical company Novartis, however, is suing the Indian government to rescind a law that prevents drug companies from seeking new patents for drugs already in use by either slightly altering the formula or patenting them for use with a different disease. This would restrict the ability of generic manufacturers to provide affordable versions of medicines in the developing world.
Additionally, in talks with its partners in the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement—Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam—the United States Trade Representative (USTR) abandoned its support for more open public health provisions in international law and demanded aggressive intellectual property protections for pharmaceuticals. A leaked USTR position paper revealed that the U.S. is pushing for measures that would delay the introduction of affordable generic drugs in developing countries.
MSF’s Access to Essential Medicines Campaign has been advocating in numerous forums for Novartis and the U.S. government to respect the public health provisions already written into international law and to allow public health concerns to take priority over profits.
Haiti 2011 © Yann Libessart/MSF
Haiti: MSF Opens Obstetrics Hospital
On August 18, MSF officially inaugurated a new emergency obstetric care hospital in the Delmas neighborhood of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Built to replace an obstetric care hospital destroyed in the January 2010 earthquake, the new 122-bed facility provides 24-hour free care for pregnant women experiencing serious complications, along with antenatal and postnatal care, family planning, treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, and counseling and testing for HIV.
Run in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, the hospital is staffed primarily by Haitian health professionals and support teams and also has its own laboratory, blood bank, and pathology department. More than 1,700 women have delivered at the hospital since it opened in March.
South Sudan: A Rampage in Pieri
In late August, MSF teams in the South Sudanese town of Pieri treated more than 100 people who’d been wounded during an armed raid in that part of Jonglei State. It is believed that several hundred people were killed. Hundreds more were injured, including women and children who suffered gunshot wounds. Almost half the houses in the town were destroyed.
Two South Sudanese MSF staff members were killed, one of them along with her entire household. Another staff member buried 16 family members. The MSF compound and clinic were looted and some MSF facilities were burned down.
“We condemn this attack on our medical facilities and the killing of our staff in the strongest terms,” said MSF Head of Mission Jose Hulsenbek. The events were the latest chapter in a series of back-and-forth raids launched by rival tribes, a dynamic that used to focus on cattle raiding but has become far deadlier in recent years, at least partly due to guns flooding the region during Sudan’s long Civil War. Whatever the cause, Hulsenbek said, “This is totally unacceptable. Medical facilities should always be respected as places of neutrality, where patients and medical staff should have no fear of attack.”