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MSF in Bolivia, 2009
Field Staff: 36
Reason for Intervention:
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One hundred years after the discovery of Chagas, a potentially fatal parasitic disease, access to diagnosis and treatment is still limited in Bolivia and there is almost no treatment offered to people over 15 years old. MSF is treating both adults and children and lobbying for wider access to treatment in the country. MSF launched a ‘Break the Silence’ advocacy campaign in 2009 to call on governments of all countries where Chagas is endemic to fight the disease.
In October 2009, MSF started working in rural Cochabamba in the heart of Bolivia, one of the areas in the country with a higher rate of Chagas. MSF is working with the rural communities on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of the disease. Of the 700 adults and children who were tested here for Chagas, more than 300 tested positive. Two thirds of these people completed the 60-day treatment successfully.
In Cochabamba there is a high presence of vinchucas, the beetles that can be found in people’s homes and transmit the disease to humans. MSF is working to implement a new strategy of insect control as well as raising awareness among the population of the possible risks.
MSF also supports a program in the capital of the Cochabamba department in collaboration with the Ministry of Health. The program works to integrate assistance for Chagas patients into the national public health system.
Laura is 39 and lives in Cochabamba town. Seven years ago she found out she had Chagas disease but the parasite had already seriously damaged her heart and she needed a pacemaker. ‘I could barely walk a block without getting tired. I went to the doctor and I had a blood test and a full check-up and they found out I had Chagas. From that moment I kept worrying about the disease. I went to MSF and the doctor said it was too late to receive treatment, so there was no option but to get a pacemaker fitted.’
MSF has worked in Bolivia since 1986.