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MSF in France, 2005
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In January 2004, the French government narrowed the eligibility criteria for its state medical aid program, better known as AME (Aide Médicale d'Etat). AME was created to ensure the availability of health care for economically disadvantaged people in France, who lacked residency permits and health insurance or other social assistance. The modifications to AME, such as the new requirement of at least three months' residency on French soil, abruptly ended access to the system and to free medical care for many. Today, an estimated 200,000 people without residency permits have no access to free medical care, unless it is an emergency.
During 2004, MSF reorganized its projects in France to help those most in need of medical and social assistance as a result of the changed system. MSF teams now run free medical clinics in Paris and in the southern city of Marseille. People can visit the clinics for medical consultations and referrals to other organizations offering additional medical care, food, clothing or accommodations. The clinics operate with extended hours to enable as many people as possible to use them.
MSF's decision to focus on activities in these locations resulted in the closure or transfer of other projects. The project providing sterile needles to intravenous drug users in Paris was handed over to a local organization in January 2005. The medical and social-service center in the southern city of Marignane, Bouches de Rhone, and the temporary accommodations that it offered to youngsters in difficult situations in the northern city of Lille and the Alsace region's city of Colmar have been closed. However, MSF's involvement with the association Espoir, which provides temporary accommodations in Colmar, will continue until the end of 2005.
MSF has worked in France since 1987.