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MSF in Zimbabwe, 2009
Field Staff: 911
Reason for Intervention:
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In June 2009, the cholera epidemic that had started in August 2008 was officially declared over. According to the UN, almost 100,000 people had contracted cholera and more than 4,000 people had died from the disease. Furthermore, the prevalence of HIV/AIDS here is among the highest in the world. MSF responded to the cholera outbreak, treating more than 65,000 people, and also provided treatment for HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis (TB).
Political and social instability
At the beginning of 2009, political turmoil and social unrest forced some hospitals to close or run at minimum capacity because of a lack of basic drugs, supplies and medical staff. However, after an effort to halt the country’s runaway inflation was started, and a countrywide incentive system for medical staff was introduced, health facilities slowly began to reopen and the availability of medicines gradually increased.
Cholera and malnutrition
In August 2008, the worst cholera epidemic in Zimbabwe’s recorded history broke out. By its end in June 2009, MSF had treated 65,000 people. MSF also worked in prisons to treat cholera patients and to prevent the spread of the disease. In addition, teams responded to a severe malnutrition crisis in 13 different prisons, providing treatment and improving sanitation and water supply.
According to the United Nations joint program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), there are 120,000 children living with HIV in Zimbabwe and at least one million children orphaned because of it. MSF increased the number of children under its care to nearly 1,000 and provided treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission of the virus, as well as counseling and patient education. MSF responded to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in five districts: more than 52,000 people received care, 39,000 of whom were put on antiretroviral therapy (ART).
MSF has been improving TB care and integrating TB and HIV/AIDS services. HIV/AIDS care has also been decentralized in order to bring services closer to the patients’ homes, and nurses have been trained to administer ART. Such ‘task shifting’ frees up the doctors so they can concentrate on more complicated cases, and allows the nurses to carry out the daily HIV/AIDS care.
MSF is running nutritional programs in Epworth, near Harare, and Buhera, further south in the country. More than 1,700 severely malnourished children were cared for in 2009.
In collaboration with the Ministry of Health, MSF has been providing both medical and psychological help for survivors of sexual violence in Gweru, in the heart of the country. More than 180 victims of sexual violence were treated last year.
Healthcare for migrants
Due to the political and economic crisis of recent years, many migrants have been leaving Zimbabwe to go to South Africa. MSF opened a project in Beitbridge, near the border most used by migrants and on a commercial route between these two countries. On average MSF teams carried out more than 1,000 consultations a month there.
MSF has worked in Zimbabwe since 2000.