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MSF in Georgia, 2009
Field Staff: 85
Reason for Intervention:
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When conflict broke out between Russia and Georgia in South Ossetia in August 2008, MSF set up a program to provide support people who had been displaced by the violence in Georgia, and as a consequence had little if any access to healthcare. In June 2009 the program finished because medical needs had decreased and many of those displaced had returned home. MSF has also been working to treat drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) and HIV/TB co-infection.
Until June 2009, MSF provided healthcare services and psychological support to people in the cities of Tbilisi and Gori who had been forced to flee their homes. About 10,000 consultations were carried out. Most of the people seen were suffering from depression, anxiety, post-traumatic disorder and psychological problems.
TB treatment success
The Georgian Ministry of Health opened a new TB hospital in Tbilisi in March 2009 and this, combined with a project that started in 2008 known as the National Tuberculosis Plan (NTP), has strengthened the country’s fight against DR-TB. Therefore, MSF started to hand over its project in Zugdidi to the government in 2009. The transfer should be completed by September 2010. More than 50 new patients with DR-TB were admitted in 2009 and 80 per cent of them adhered well to the treatment despite the debilitating side effects. This success rate was due to a home-based approach that patients found easier to follow.
In Abkhazia MSF continued to support the national TB program, providing treatment for patients with DR-TB and life prolonging antiretroviral therapy for those co-infected with HIV. This program will also be handed over to the national program.
A health access program for vulnerable people in Abkhazia, which started in 1993 and at its peak had 6,000 patients, was also reduced in size as the Ministry of Health’s willingness to take responsibility increased. In 2009, some 100 people, mainly home-bound and bed-ridden, were registered on the program.
Nugzari, 60 years old, now cured of DR-TB
‘I had so many side effects: I couldn’t get up and I didn’t leave my room because I felt ashamed. Someone who hasn’t taken these drugs can’t imagine how hard it is. I knew a man who went mad taking this medicine. Me too, I used to lose my patience and my wife was worried about me.’
Dr Gotcha Salia, MSF doctor
‘Most of the time, patients who stop treatment do so for psychological reasons. They give up because after a while they feel better. They no longer present symptoms of TB and they’ve been like this for several months. So they wonder: “Why am I taking this medication if I am feeling better?”’
MSF has worked in Georgia since 1993.