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MSF in Zimbabwe, 2006/2007
Field Staff: 267
Reason for Intervention:
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With hyperinflation, political turmoil and a deteriorating economy as evidenced by widespread food shortages, an estimated three million people had fled Zimbabwe by July, 2007. Access to healthcare in this context is increasingly difficult, whilst health threats are on the rise.
There is a continuing crisis in the country related to HIV/AIDS: one in five adults is HIV positive, and less than one fourth of the people in urgent need of life-prolonging antiretroviral treatment (ART) receive it. Whilst treatment access had slightly improved, a collapsing healthcare system is jeopardizing gains. Trained medical staff are leaving the country and the government program for HIV/AIDS treatment is over-subscribed and experiences ruptures in drug stocks.
The cost of fuel exacerbates transport problems, resulting in the failure of most people in the countryside to reach treatment sites to receive the care they need. Zimbabwe’s dismal reputation on the international stage has led many international donors to refuse to support programs in the country. The government’s project to implement a comprehensive multi-sectoral response to HIV/AIDS has fallen short, whilst approximately 3,500 people die of AIDS-related illnesses weekly.
MSF provides free medical care to 33,000 HIV-positive patients in Zimbabwe, 11,000 of whom are receiving anti-retroviral therapy. This accounts for over one fifth of all ART provision in the country. Care is provided through a decentralized system implemented in Bulawayo, Tshlotshlo, Gweru, Epworth and various locations in Manicaland province.
MSF’s ability to care for more patients in need could be hindered, as only doctors and clinical officers are allowed to make the decision to prescribe anti-retroviral drugs. “Task shifting” the responsibility of drug provision to nurses and other trained staff has proven to be an effective way to scale-up treatment in other settings.
MSF has worked in Zimbabwe since 2000.