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MSF in Sudan, 2004
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The peace process between northern and southern Sudan that has been underway since 2002 has renewed hopes for an end to Africa's longest-running civil war. The conflict has cost almost two million lives, mostly civilians who have died from hunger and disease. Yet amid talk of peace between the north and the south, the westernmost region of Sudan, Darfur, became the site of a growing catastrophe in the past year.
The ceasefire between the Sudanese government and the southern rebels of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) has held – with few exceptions – for two years. The absence of fighting has greatly improved MSF's ability to reach new areas and has reduced the displacement of groups of people fleeing violence. For years, MSF has assisted people in both northern and southern Sudan, providing basic health care at hospitals or through networks of clinics and health centers. Its work has included treating people with tuberculosis (TB), kala azar (visceral leishmaniasis) and other diseases; providing food; and treating the severely malnourished. MSF also delivers clean drinking water and provides sanitary facilities in areas where displaced people have sought shelter.
In 2003-4 the organization continued these crucial, basic services and also assisted people affected by measles, meningitis, malaria and other infectious diseases. MSF treats people with TB in the towns of Akuem and Mapel in Bahr el Ghazal province, Bentiu in Western Upper Nile province and in Lankien in Eastern Upper Nile province. During the last year, MSF treated approximately 430 TB patients in Sudan.
Because the treatment takes from six to eight months, curing people with TB remains highly challenging. MSF's pioneering experience in this field has paved the way for other organizations to set up similar TB programs elsewhere in the country. In southern Sudan, sleeping sickness (African trypanosomiasis) is endemic, and unless outbreaks are brought under control, epidemics can emerge rapidly. The disease is fatal if left untreated. MSF is now treating those with sleeping sickness around the towns of Kajo Keji, Ibba and Kotobi in Western Equatoria province. MSF closed a sleeping sickness program in the Western Equatoria town of Kirii after successfully reducing the number of cases to the region's normal level.
MSF also runs a special program to treat people with kala azar, a parasitic disease spread by the tiny sandfly that is fatal in 95 percent of untreated cases. Approximately 3,300 patients received treatment for the disease through MSF projects in the towns of Walgak, Wudier and Lankien in Upper Nile province, in Umm el Kher in the eastern state of Gadaref and in Bentiu in Western Upper Nile province.
In May and June 2004, an outbreak of the hemorrhagic Ebola virus occurred near the town of Yambio, in Eastern Equatoria province. MSF set up an isolation unit and treated 28 patients, of whom 6 died.
MSF has worked in Sudan since 1979.