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Central African Republic
MSF in Central African Republic, 2002
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Launch of sleeping sickness program
The landlocked and sparsely populated Central African Republic experienced an attempted coup in May 2001 and continues to suffer both political and economic instability. Access to health care is becoming ever more restricted in this country that already has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world and is ranked third in declared cases of sleeping sickness.
In October 2001, MSF started a sleeping sickness program in Haut-Mbomou prefecture in the southeast of the country, one of the areas worst hit by this re-emerging disease that hits mainly rural populations already affected by malaria and meningitis. Sleeping sickness is a parasitic infection transmitted by the tsetse fly that causes irreversible neurological damage and is lethal if untreated. MSF provides treatment and trains local staff. While constrained to use the toxic and sometimes deadly arsenicderivative melarsoprol as standard treatment, MSF gained authorization to introduce the newer, less toxic drug eflornithine on a pilot basis for advanced cases.
MSF is running a maternal health program in the capital Bangui, covering pre- and postnatal care, vaccinations, family planning, resource management and training for local staff in three maternity wards in the city.
Central African Republic is also host to refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan, who receive barely any health assistance because of the precarious state of the country's infrastructure. MSF carried out an exploratory mission in May 2002 to evaluate the situation of Sudanese refugees settled in isolated border areas with no access to health services, and provided them with basic medical care, water and sanitation services, and non-food supplies.
MSF has been working in Central African Republic since 1997.