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MSF in Indonesia, 2008
Field Staff: 137
Reason for Intervention:
All articles on Indonesia »
Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has assisted patients suffering from infectious diseases, violence, and natural disasters in Indonesia since 1995. In 2008, however, due to an improved Indonesian capacity to respond to national disasters, MSF decided to end activities there by early 2009. Yet, throughout 2008, MSF continued to monitor and react to emergencies and to provide health care in remote areas.
Responding to emergencies
Although the number of emergencies requiring assistance from MSF dropped in 2008, MSF supported survivors of a powerful earthquake in central Sulawesi in November with mental health activities and mobile clinics. Almost 2,600 people were given psychological training on how to handle stress and what to do in case of another earthquake. More than 1,000 patients also had medical consultations.
When the powerful cyclone Nargis struck nearby Myanmar in May 2008, the MSF emergency team in Indonesia reacted rapidly. Within a month, eight chartered flights containing 39,000 tarpaulins, 14,400 hygiene kits, and other items—260 metric tons altogether—were sent from Jakarta, to assist the victims.
Treatment for a neglected disease
While studying the pros and cons of using rapid diagnostic tests for malaria in Asmat, a swampy and difficult-to-reach district in the Papua province, MSF found disturbing levels of microfilaria, the parasite that causes lymphatic filariasis. Also known as elephantiasis, this disease is endemic in 304 of the 414 districts in Indonesia, but remains a neglected disease in the country.
MSF decided to intervene in two phases, a mass drug administration campaign followed by surgery for people with chronic filariasis. The campaign was conducted in collaboration with the local health authorities, which also guaranteed the necessary follow-up over the next four years. Over three months, 36,644 people were treated in the seven sub-districts of Asmat, and later 36 surgeries were performed.
Focus on mother and child
Malaria, diarrhea, and respiratory infections are the main causes of death and disease among children in the Asmat district, and the harsh living conditions in the thick tropical forest and swamps pose additional health risks for pregnant women. In 2008 MSF continued its program to improve access to primary and emergency healthcare and services for the vulnerable population. Projects ranging from a comprehensive referral system at village level to a fully operational surgery room in Agats were completed. MSF trained staff at all levels of the health system, put in place safe blood transfusions, and established a radio system so villagers can call for an ambulance boat in emergencies. Also more than 8,000 consultations were performed through mobile clinics visiting villages in remote districts. Much effort was put into health promotion, since many people in the villages were unfamiliar with modern medicine.
MSF has worked in Indonesia since 1995.