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MSF in Uganda, 2006/2007
Field Staff: 1,159
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In August 2006, a fragile truce was signed between the Ugandan government and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), and the 1.6 million people who have been virtual prisoners in the approximately 200 camps for the displaced began drifting toward home.
In 2007, as peace talks continued and LRA fighters left northern Uganda, people continued to return to their villages or smaller camps. The return, however, is not uniform. In Lira, it was estimated that in mid-2007, only 11 percent of people remained in their original camps, while in Kitgum, that figure was as high as 79 percent. At the height of the LRA’s presence, MSF provided water, sanitation and healthcare in over 20 of the squalid camps for the displaced, but activities have been reduced as people have left the camps. In Kitgum, where MSF has worked since August 2004, the situation remains precarious, yet improvements in security and a decrease in health needs has allowed MSF to hand over four health centers with the objective of pulling out of two more—Orom and Lukung—by the end of 2007.
The reduction in activities has provided MSF the capacity and flexibility to begin work in other areas of northern Uganda where there are people with unmet medical needs for HIV, tuberculosis (TB), malnutrition, and surgery. In Lalogi camp in Gulu, where MSF had previously focused on basic care, emergency obstetric care and treatment for HIV/AIDS have now been introduced. By June 2007, 405 HIV patients had been identified, 75 of whom were under treatment with antiretroviral drugs. In May 2007, MSF began a second new HIV/TB project in Madi Opei, Kitgum.
In Arua, in northwest Uganda, a more established AIDS program continues to expand. Over 10,000 people have been included since it opened in 2003, and by the end of April 2007, 3,323 people were receiving first-line treatment, and 75 who had failed first-line (standard) treatment were following a second-line drug regimen. The program includes 634 children. At the beginning of 2006, a pilot project began for TB/HIV co-infection, and now an average of 90 new patients begin TB treatment every month, around 50 percent of whom are coinfected.
MSF also supports ten health centers in surrounding areas as part of a decentralization and referral plan aiming to bring HIV/AIDS treatment closer to people’s homes and provide them with easier access to care.
In 2006/2007, MSF worked closely with the Ugandan Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization in response to an outbreak of bacterial meningitis. MSF completed a vaccination campaign in two districts of the West Nile region, supervising the inoculation of 291,000 people and assisting with 333,000 more. Meanwhile, as the truce in the north began to take effect, the Ugandan government stepped up its attempts at disarmament in the impoverished and often lawless Karamoja province to the east. Following the results of a World Food Program nutritional survey conducted in Kaabong District, MSF launched a response in June 2007, setting up four ambulatory feeding centers and one center for severely malnourished children. By mid-July, 2,000 children had been screened and 445 children were being treated.
MSF has worked in Uganda since 1980.