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MSF in Liberia, 2007
Field Staff: 1,023
Reason for intervention:
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Improving the health of mothers and children is the main focus of MSF’s work in Liberia. Although the situation has improved in recent years, many Liberians still live in crushing poverty. Women and children remain particularly vulnerable and in need of specialized health services.
Protecting mothers and their children
Each month, more than 1,300 children are treated at Island and Benson hospitals in the capital, Monrovia. Benson hospital also provides maternity care and obstetric surgery, as well as running a women’s health center. Two MSF-supported primary health clinics also handle 13,000 consultations a month. The majority of the patients are pregnant women, new mothers and children. To prevent expectant mothers with HIV transmitting the virus to their child, pregnant women attending MSF clinics are offered free HIV testing and those testing positive are enrolled in treatment.
In April, MSF began offering HIV testing at Island hospital for children showing symptoms associated with the virus. Fifty-four children who have tested positive are receiving antiretroviral treatment (ART). A new outpatient section has been added to the hospital for HIV and tuberculosis patients who get treatment and medication but are able to live at home.
In Saclapea in Nimba County, MSF has built a comprehensive 42-bed health center, replacing the original tent structure with permanent buildings. The hospital provides outpatient and inpatient services and has a clinic dedicated to women’s health. The center was completed in late 2007. MSF also offers ART for HIV patients at the health center.
Providing recovery from, and raising awareness of, sexual violence
Since 2003, MSF has provided medical care for survivors of sexual violence in Monrovia and carried out activities to raise awareness of this serious problem. Each month, MSF teams in Monrovia treat approximately 140 survivors of sexual violence, more than a third of whom are under 12 years old. Awareness of the importance of seeking treatment within 72 hours of an attack is increasing, particularly among police and community organizations, and more patients now seek care earlier. However, despite positive changes to tackle the issue, MSF is still one of the very few organizations providing medical care to survivors of sexual violence in Monrovia.
As Liberia moves towards stability and reconstruction, humanitarian organizations including MSF, which work mainly in emergency situations, are beginning to leave the country. MSF gradually stopped working in some of the health facilities in Nimba county and withdrew from Lofa county. Most were handed over to the Liberian health authorities or to other non-governmental organizations. MSF has also closed the medical facility at Mamba Point.
Prior to an international donor conference in Washington D.C. in February, MSF released a report stressing the need to find alternatives to humanitarian assistance and to build capacity in the Liberian health services to address the country’s healthcare needs. The paper was used to brief major donors and States.
MSF has worked in Liberia since 1990.