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MSF in Bolivia, 2007
Field Staff: 35
Reason for Intervention:
All articles on Bolivia »
The Chagas parasitic infection affects some 18 million people in Latin America, with the highest prevalence in Bolivia. Transmitted by bloodsucking insects commonly found in impoverished areas and rural dwellings, Chagas can debilitate the heart and intestinal systems, shortening life expectancy by about 10 years.
Chagas has attracted little investment in terms of diagnostics and drug development. The only treatment is based on two older-class drugs that risk many side effects and make patient monitoring and follow-up essential. The main target for medical interventions has always been children as treatment for adults has never proved completely successful.
MSF has undertaken several projects to prevent and treat Chagas in Bolivia. Initially, the projects treated children only but a new project opened in Cochabamba in August also treats adults and is integrated into six urban health centers. The need to work with and train health workers meant a slow start but Chagas is now a step closer to being treated like any other disease at the primary care level. While the Chagas National Program started diagnosing and treating patients under 15 years old in various municipalities in the country in 2006, access remains unavailable for the majority and MSF has been increasing its advocacy within the country to improve this. Research has also been a key part of the Chagas projects in Bolivia, and further research into new diagnostic tools and treatments is planned for the coming year.
MSF works with national and international organizations to raise awareness of Chagas and encourage more research and development into effective diagnostics and drugs. MSF has been a partner of the Pan American Health Organization and participates in the Global Network for Chagas Elimination launched at the World Health Organization in July.
MSF has worked in Bolivia since 1986.