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MSF in India, 2006/2007
Field Staff: 350
Reason for Intervention:
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Although India continues to experience phenomenal economic growth, hundreds of thousands of people in many parts of the country continue to have their health compromised by factors including poverty, conflict and neglected tropical disease.
In the state of Chhattisgarh, MSF brings assistance to the victims of ongoing conflict between Maoist rebels and the governmentbacked paramilitaries. The conflict has resulted in the displacement of approximately 30,000 people, some living in government-run camps in Andhra Pradesh or in dire conditions within the state. In Chhattisgarh, MSF in July 2007 provided medical assistance including primary healthcare and an ambulatory therapeutic feeding program for moderate and severely malnourished children in three camps for internally displaced people. MSF’s mobile clinics also offer primary healthcare in Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh.
Treating HIV, kala azar and malaria In conflict-affected Manipur, MSF has started treating people with HIV, offering anti-retroviral treatment (ART) in its five basic health centers. By December 2006, medical care had been provided to 800 people living with HIV/ AIDS and 344 patients had started ART. The total number of consultations in 2006 was 32,139. MSF aims to work in closer cooperation with the health authorities in Manipur and hand over some of its activities to India’s National AIDS Control Program.
MSF in 2006 also set up an HIV project in Mumbai, with a specific focus on treating HIV/ TB co-infected patients and marginalized people excluded from the national healthcare program. The project offers counseling, treatment for opportunistic infections and ART to the transgendered and commercial sex workers. In July 2007, over 400 patients were registered at the clinic, half of whom receive ART.
In the state of Bihar, MSF recently started a kala azar project in partnership with the Indian Ministry of Health (MoH). India is the site of 80 percent of the world’s cases of kala azar. MSF helped rehabilitate the Kala Azar Ward at the Laboratory of the Rajendra Memorial Institute of Research (RMRI) in Patna, a public institute for treating people with complicated kala azar. Diagnosis and treatment of patients will begin in 2007.
In Assam, northeast India, MSF has continued a primary healthcare project for people displaced by ethnic violence. Malaria remains a serious health threat, and MSF in 2006 distributed 33,500 bed nets, treated 55,259 patients for malaria and lobbied for the widespread introduction of artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT), proven to be the most effective malaria treatment. In the southern part of Assam, MSF conducted a total of 177,392 basic healthcare consultations. Violence in Assam subsided in 2006 and MSF plans to hand its activities to the authorities in 2007.
Tending to mental health After the 2005 earthquake, MSF opened a project in Jammu and Kashmir, a region long-disputed by India and Pakistan. Mental healthcare is offered to victims of violence in Srinagar and Kupwara, and teams had counseled 7,900 patients by July 2007. MSF has also urged the Indian government to set up centers for mental healthcare in Kashmir. Mental health and basic healthcare is offered by MSF to people in villages close to the Line of Control between Indian and Pakistani forces, where 12,281 consultations had been conducted by the summer of 2007.
In June 2007, the last MSF project for tsunami survivors was closed in Tamil Nadu. The Indian NGO Center for Social Reconstruction has taken over the mental health program dealing with tsunami survivors.
Pharmacy of the developing world In 2007, the pharmaceutical company Novartis took the Indian government to court over its 2005 Patents Act because it wanted a more extensive granting of patent production for its products than offered by the law. Novartis claimed the Act did not meet rules set down by the World Trade Organization and was in violation of the Indian constitution. Novartis’ claim was rejected by the High Court in Chennai on August 6, 2007.
A ruling in Novartis’ favour would have drastically restricted production of affordable medicines in India that are crucial for the treatment of diseases throughout the developing world. In early 2007, MSF’s Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines requested that Novartis drop the case and launched a petition signed by over 420,000 people worldwide.
MSF has worked in India since 1999.