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MSF in Zimbabwe, 2005
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During the last few years, Zimbabwe has been the scene of ongoing crises. The country's health care system is now on the verge of total collapse. Many civilians have no way to get needed health care, and the system is unable to respond to emergency situations such as growing malnutrition and epidemics. HIV/AIDS continues to be a huge health disaster in the country, with about a quarter of the population (two million people) already living with the virus.
From May to July 2005, the Zimbabwean government's campaign Operation Restore Order demolished illegal settlements and marketplaces in major urban areas, leaving approximately 700,000 people homeless, according to UN estimates. After their houses were destroyed, civilians had no choice but to move in with family and friends, relocate to rural areas or sleep in crude shelters. Others moved to government- run transit camps for the displaced, which offered little or no support or amenities. In July 2005, the government began closing down these camps in an effort to force the inhabitants to rural areas.
Prior to the camps' closure, poor living conditions within the camps had led MSF, already active in the country, to begin operations in the camps and destroyed neighborhoods. In June 2005, in the capital, Harare, MSF cooperated with Unicef to improve the water supply in Caledonia Farms, a displaced-persons camp housing approximately 5,000 people. MSF also worked in parts of Harare that were severely affected by the demolitions as well as in the nearby town of Chitungweza, providing medical care and relief items, such as blankets and shelter material. MSF also used mobile clinics to bring medical care to this population. In the southern city of Bulawayo, MSF ran mobile clinics inside a number of churches where the city's displaced had gathered, offering health care as well as water and sanitation.
In eastern Manicaland province, in Mutare's Sakubva suburb, located 250 kilometers southeast of Harare, where MSF runs an HIV/AIDS project, the organization is incorporating some of the affected evicted people into its support groups for those living with the virus and is also donating medicines to the local clinic. MSF is also working in hospitals in Murambinda and Buhera, and staff in these areas have traced HIVpositive patients who disrupted their antiretroviral (ARV) treatment when they were evicted in order to get them started again. A team has also carried out an assessment of the medical and nutritional needs of people living in the province and has visited the Tongogara camp to analyze needs in order to provide future assistance.
In the western province of Matabeleland North, MSF provides HIV/AIDS care to patients in Mpilo and UBH Hospitals and in the Tsholotsho district. By August 2005, 1,000 adults and 250 children were being treated with ARVs. The team plans to start providing care in decentralized clinics in Bulawayo to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus, treat people with HIV/ AIDS and care for victims of sexual violence. In the first half of 2005, MSF received permission to start treating people with HIV/AIDS in collaboration with the ministry of health in the central Midlands province. Preparations are now underway to begin this program.
MSF has worked in Zimbabwe since 2000.