International Chagas Day: MSF begins work in Monteagudo in Chuquisaca, Bolivia


SUCRE, BOLIVIA/NEW YORKDoctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is launching a new project to ensure that people can be diagnosed and treated for Chagas disease in the town of Monteagudo, in the Chuquisaca department of southern Bolivia. In partnership with local health care institutions, the international medical humanitarian organization will develop a comprehensive care model for primary and secondary care that will be integrated into the existing health care system.

"This partnership model aims to achieve greater empowerment for national authorities and, therefore, improve the sustainability of the program over time," said Martin Cazenave, MSF general coordinator in the country. "The idea is that the intervention model be replicated in the future in other municipalities and without the need for MSF’s direct participation."

Last March, MSF offered an introductory workshop on diagnosing and treating Chagas disease for health care staff in the municipality, which was also attended by staff from the surrounding areas. 

"The enthusiasm and participation far exceeded our expectations," said Cazenave. "About 130 people attended. If we have ever underestimated the interest of health personnel in areas affected by Chagas disease, this was enough to show that we were wrong."

This workshop forms part of the training activities that the organization will carry out, in addition to providing technical support to the health care system in order to improve access to diagnosis and treatment. 

The new project in Monteagudo will last two years, until the end of 2016.

Currently, Chuquisaca has the greatest prevalence of Chagas in the country, along with Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, and Tarija. The main vector, Triatoma infestans, originates from these areas and has proven itself to be highly adaptable, which makes it more difficult to control the bugs that transmit the disease, as well as tackle the disease itself in a comprehensive manner.

MSF has worked in Bolivia since 1986. It is estimated that over one million people suffer from Chagas disease in Bolivia. Since 2002, MSF has worked continuously on Chagas programs in Bolivia, where less than 4 percent of sufferers receive the treatment they need.

In Chujllas, patient Hilario was chosen to help the MSF staff monitor the situation in the community. Those who find vinchucas at their homes, inform him so that he can report it to the authorities.