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MSF in Bolivia, 2006
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Bolivia is home to a large indigenous population, many of whom are poor, geographically isolated and have little access to healthcare. Up to 40 per cent of people are affected by Chagas disease in some rural areas, the highest prevalence in Latin America. Diseases preventable with vaccines also continue to be an unresolved health problem.
MSF has focused on helping Bolivians with Chagas, the deadly parasitic disease that can be transmitted through a “bug bite” and eventually attacks the heart and digestive system. MSF currently operates projects in semi-urban areas and in the city of Sucre, Chuquisaca department. As Chagas cannot be effectively treated in adults, emphasis is on diagnosis and treatment for Chagas in youth under 18, and by July 2006, 193 patients had been treated with good results. MSF continues to support the Ministry of Health’s Chagas prevention activities, trains medical and community health staff, and conducts community education. Lobbying and advocacy to improve access to diagnosis and treatment for Chagas is also ongoing.
In O’Connor province, Tarija department, MSF is testing and treating youth under 15 for Chagas, attempting to reduce its impact. By July 2006, MSF had screened a total of 7083 youths and treated over 1200 in this rural area. Strategies to diagnose congenital Chagas in unborn babies have also been implemented. MSF is now integrating these activities into public health structures, aiming to hand over the project to local authorities at the end of 2006. Awareness and advocacy efforts have also been robust with MSF participating in national and international Chagas forums and media activities, lobbying at the department level and contributing to the Chagas department network.
Flooding in Bolivia
Unrelenting rains caused flooding in Bolivia’s highlands and the Amazon basin in January 2006, drawing extensive humanitarian aid. After assessing the health situation, MSF provided safe drinking water to approximately 600 families in Gualberto Villaroel province, La Paz department.
Neglected diseases project closes
In April 2006, MSF closed a neglected diseases project aimed at the diagnosis and treatment of tuberculosis, malaria, leprosy and leishmaniasis in Pando, because epidemiological surveillance showed these diseases were not as prevalent as expected. After training local health staff, MSF handed over diagnosis activities to the Ministry of Health.
MSF has worked in Bolivia since 1986.