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MSF in Zimbabwe, 2008
Field Staff: 579
Reason for Intervention:
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Political instability in Zimbabwe has led to economic free fall. The effects are aggressive inflation, the collapse of basic infrastructure and services, food shortages, and a total implosion of the country’s health system. In its regular programs, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) focuses on the treatment of HIV/AIDS patients and provides nutritional support to severely malnourished children.
One in five adults in Zimbabwe is infected with HIV/AIDS, and too few of those in urgent need of treatment can access antiretroviral (ARV) therapy. In its HIV/AIDS programs in Bulawayo, Epworth, Gweru, Tshlotshlo, and various locations in Manicaland province, MSF is providing free care for 40,000 people. In 2008, 26,000 of these people began ARV therapy. But increasingly, patients are missing their appointments and risk interrupting their treatment because they cannot get to the few functioning clinics. This is due mostly to the high cost and unreliable nature of the transport system, but sometimes it is because patients have had to flee to neighboring countries. In response to this problem, MSF has started to decentralize treatment, making its services more accessible, especially in rural areas.
Many Zimbabweans who leave the country—an estimated three million to date—flee to South Africa. Since May 2008, MSF has worked in Beitbridge, the exit point most used by these people. The project ensures that primary healthcare reaches the most vulnerable, such as refugees, migrants, orphans, or commercial sex workers, and deals with victims of violence and abuse. In 2007 MSF started to provide medical assistance to Zimbabwean refugees in the border town of Musina and in central Johannesburg.
By December 31, MSF had helped more than 30,000 people suffering from cholera and more than 1,500 deaths had been recorded. MSF medical teams supported government structures with supplies, staff incentive payments, and training, and established separate cholera treatment units in areas that had no other health facilities.
MSF has worked in Zimbabwe since 2000.