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MSF in Cameroon , 2009
Field Staff: 83
Reason for Intervention:
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MSF is working in Cameroon to treat Buruli ulcer, one of the most under-funded, under- researched, but treatable diseases in the world. This bacterial infection causes deformation of limbs and disability if it is not treated in time. As part of its Buruli program, MSF has introduced modern wound-dressings that reduce the need for complicated surgical procedures.
Buruli ulcer is an infection related to tuberculosis and leprosy. It is present in around 30 countries worldwide, but since the number of people affected is relatively small, there is no treatment available in most countries. In the rural district of Akonolinga in Cameroon, MSF has set up a Buruli center that screens patients and treats the disease with antibiotics, skin grafting and physiotherapy. Treatment can take up to a year and, since setting up the centre in 2002, MSF assisted around 800 patients. The new wound dressing has enabled people living in remote areas to receive treatment without being hospitalized. The challenges ahead are to implement decentralized screening in order to better reach people in rural areas, and to make the Buruli center a referral point for the whole country.
MSF set up its first HIV/AIDS program in the city of Yaounde in 2000, and then another in Douala in 2003. After handing the programs over to the Ministry of Health in 2008, MSF has been preparing a new project that will start in early 2010. This will help patients who, after five to ten years, have developed resistance to anti-retroviral medication. These patients have had to be moved on to second-line treatment, without which the disease would develop and ultimately lead to death. However, this is still not widely available through the national health system in Douala, so MSF is returning to support the Ministry of Health in widening access and training staff.
Darlyse is a 17-year-old girl from Libreville, Gabon who suffered with Buruli ulcer for over five years. After undergoing a number of ineffective treatments she was referred to the MSF Buruli center in neighboring country Cameroon. ‘My case became very severe because it took so long to find the right treatment’, she explained. ‘When I got there I was so tired of the pain and the many unsuccessful treatments that I just wished that they would cut my leg off.’ Darlyse stayed in the center for nearly a year, receiving wound care and skin transplants. It was a great relief for her eventually to be able to leave, cured. ‘I still limp a little, but it is getting better every day. I can return home and go back to school again.’
MSF has worked in Cameroon since 2000.