In Other News From Last Week...

Gabrielle Klein/MSF

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been in the news quite a lot recently in stories about its Ebola response and the people carrying it out on the ground. We have been addressing and will continue to address all related issues, but we also wanted to mention a few others things that our teams have been doing over the past week in some of the nearly 70 countries around the world where MSF works. It is by no means exhaustive but it provides a glimpse of just some of what else has been happening of late.  

Amman, Jordan: Khatam, a four-year-old girl from Aleppo, Syria, whose face, hands, and neck were badly burned in a barrel bomb attack on her home, was recovering from surgery, performed a week earlier, at MSF’s reconstructive surgery project in Amman, which provides surgical and rehabilitative care to patients from across the Middle East. MSF surgeons will perform more operations on Khatam in the coming months. She faces a long road ahead; MSF staff will see her through it as best they can.

Kunduz, Afghanistan: Ramin, a 12-year-old boy badly wounded by an improvised explosive device (IED) last month, was discharged in good health after receiving extensive surgical, medical, and psychological care for his injuries and the trauma associated with the event at MSF's trauma center in the city.

Shamwana, Katanga Province, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): A man set off on a motorbike taxi towards MSF’s hospital in Shamwana with his wife and baby, both of whom were gravely ill. When his wife said she was too sick to continue, the man directed the driver to carry on with their now-unconscious child to the hospital for treatment while he tried to aid his wife. She died, but the driver reached MSF’s hospital and the baby survived. After arranging for his wife’s funeral, the father reached the hospital, too. He and his sister will care for his child.

Bentiu, South Sudan: On October 30, after a particularly brutal stretch of violence in the Bentiu area, MSF’s Dr. Erna Rijnierse, who works at the hospital MSF runs in a displacement camp—one of numerous MSF projects in the country—reported that teams had provided emergency medical care to 12 people with gunshot wounds and related injuries, carrying out nine surgical interventions, including one that helped stabilize a pregnant woman who had been shot in the chest, and her baby. “It’s difficult to move around safely inside the camp or even in the hospital, stray bullets are flying around from all directions,” said Dr. Rijnierse. “At any time the shooting and shelling can start, which means we have to run to the bunkers . . . The atmosphere is tense and very unpredictable.”

Port-au-Prince, Haiti:  Staff at MSF’s cholera treatment center (CTC) in the Delmas neighborhood were treating 200 patients per week, while MSF was also supporting Haiti’s Ministry of Health in its efforts to combat the disease—which first struck the country in 2010, when MSF treated the majority of cases that appeared in the country—by providing training, materials, and medical supervision in other facilities.

Grozny, Chechnya: MSF staff working in the Republican Tuberculosis Dispensary started a 35-year-old woman on a new regimen for extremely drug-resistant tuberculosis (XDR-TB). She’d started treatment in 2012 but couldn’t tolerate the brutal side effects of the drugs. In 2013, she proved resistant to the customary drugs, which necessitated a new course with Bedaquiline, a promising new TB drug that gives her a better chance of cure.

Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya: Over a 48-hour period, staff at MSF’s project in East Africa’s largest slum helped deliver 20 babies—13 boys and 7 girls—nearly twice as many as the number in an average two day span. It got particularly busy when three mothers gave birth within 35 minutes of each other.

Foya, Liberia: An 18-year-old man who arrived at MSF’s Ebola management center days earlier with symptoms consistent with malaria and Ebola is discharged after testing negative for Ebola. He tested positive for malaria, though, and is receiving the appropriate treatment.

Monrovia, Liberia: Hundreds of women who received antimalaria tablets for themselves and their families from MSF, which launched an emergency malaria campaign due to the fact that Ebola has decimated the city’s ability to handle other health problems, walk through the streets singing, “Thank you, MSF.”

Bangui, Central Africa Republic: Staff at one of two clinics MSF established in CAR’s capital for victims of sexual violence, a massive problem in a country convulsed by conflict, continue to counsel and provide medical assistance for those in need. MSF has programs all across CAR. These particular clinics opened in July and had assisted nearly 250 people through September. “Some of the women will remain traumatized for life, but if, for example, we can get the family to be very supportive of the victim, then there is a chance," says Helene Thomas, MSF psychologist. "The assault will never be forgotten, but they can pull through and end up having a life without severe psychological trauma." 

Epworth, Zimbabwe: Gibson Chijaka, a 16-year-old TB patient, finished the grueling treatment regimen he started two years ago. "I have just been told today that I am cured of DR-TB and will not have to endure dozens of nauseating tablets which I have been taking every day for the past two years,” he said. “I am so happy and cannot hold back my joy.”

Ramtha, Jordan: Ahmad, a 14-year-old boy injured in June when the Al Shajara camp in Syria was bombed, called the team that treated him for four months at MSF’s surgical project in Ramtha to say that he’d been reunited with his family, absent his father, who was killed in the attack, and to thank MSF for the care he received.

Al Zaatari refugee camp, Jordan: Two patients transferred from Ramtha tried on their leg prostheses for the first time. And MSF opened a fourth ward in the camp. And a hemiplegic patients took his first steps on his own, five of them, smiling all the while. And another patient who’d been treated for a brain injury spoke for the first time since he was injured. He said “water”; he was thirsty.

Chaman, Pakistan: After a woman expecting twins arrived at the Ministry of Health hospital MSF supports near the border with Afghanistan, staff saw that the first baby was in breech, a complication for which doctors normally recommend a C-section. The mother refused this option, as do many in this region. MSF staff explained the risks to the mother, who accepted them. When she went into labor, MSF’s Dr. Jeltje Danhof assisted what turned out to be the successful delivery of two healthy baby daughters.

Borno State, Nigeria: MSF has opened a 150-bed cholera treatment center in response to an outbreak that has afflicted 4,500 and killed 70 in an isolated, insurgency-riddled region where there is almost no other access to care.

Gety, Orientale Province, DRC: Staff at MSF’s program for survivors of sexual violence provided medical and psychological care to a woman who’d been gang raped by three militiamen when she was walking near her fields. Rape is disturbingly common in the conflict-affected area; between January 2013 and October 2014, MSF treated 602 cases of rape in Gety, 15 of those being children under 5.

Northern Iraq: MSF teams continued surveying the needs of people recently displaced by fighting elsewhere in the country, including several hundred families with no access to health care. MSF is already working in several locations in northern Iraq, providing care for Syrian refugees and displaced Iraqis alike. MSF just opened a new clinic in Kalar, near Sulaimaniya, on October 26, for instance. Staff performed 97 consultations on the first day alone and 668 in the first week.

Khaiwai Para village, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh: A woman whose three-year-old daughter was too sick to eat had her tested and then treated for malaria, which is endemic in the area, at a project MSF runs with the Ministry of Health. “These services gave us a feeling of relief and safety,” she said. “We feel happy now that we are getting good care.”

Barcelona, Spain: Busisiwe "Buci" Beko, who, along with her five-year old daughter, survived MDR-TB thanks to treatment at MSF’s program in Khayelitsha, South Africa, where she later became a counselor for other patients, addressed the world's largest scientific conference on TB, the 45th Union Conference on Lung Health, to advocate for radical improvements in the diagnosis and treatment of drug-resistant TB. Simultaneously, MSF released Out of Step, a report that “reveals five deadly gaps in the [global] TB response that are costing lives.”

Pretoria, South Africa: Phumeza Tisile, who completed treatment for extremely drug resistant TB (XDR-TB) with MSF, joined other health activists to demand registration of an affordable generic version of the drug linezolid—the brand-name version costs $65 per pill—part of the effort to help bring affordable care to a country where some 15,000 people are diagnosed with DR-TB each year and less than half start treatment, in part because existing regimens are so arduous and more effective options are prohibitively expensive.

Pozzallo and Augusta, Italy: MSF teams in Italy provided medical assistance to two groups of migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers coming by boat from Africa, the first in Augusta, where some 140 migrants primarily from Somalia and sub-Saharan Africa landed at 2:00AM, local time, and the second, when 58 others—mainly Libyans, which hints at the deterioration of the situation in that country, along with Nigerians, Senegalese, Malians, and Gazans—landed in Pozzallo.

Haut Uele Province, DRC: Twenty-seven members of MSF’s “mobile sleeping sickness team” rose before dawn, drove until the road ended, then walked three hours through the bush to screen and/or treat scores of people in a remote village for sleeping sickness, a neglected disease that is fatal if left untreated. Among those who tested positive was a pregnant woman named Marcelline; she received painful but necessary injections that, along with follow-up treatment, will save her life and the life of her unborn child.

Helmand Province, Afghanistan: MSF staff at the malnutrition ward of Boost hospital in Lashkar Gah admitted an undersized, listless, acutely malnourished eight-month-old baby girl named Nelofar. MSF’s nurse supervisor advised the girl’s mother to breastfeed her daughter and provided supplemental milk as well. Over the next few days, Nelofar started regaining her appetite and crying again, a sign that she had more energy and strength. Staff expects that she should be able to go home in 10 days.

Lankien, South Sudan: Teams in Lankien continued responding to a large Kala Azar outbreak, for which they’ve treated more than 4,000 patients since the beginning of the year.   

Bekaa Valley, Lebanon:  A 24-year-old Syrian woman who fled the conflict in her homeland and now lives with her parents, husband, and three-year-old son in a garage visited an MSF clinic, presenting with severe abdominal pain. Tests showed she was pregnant, happy news for her family. MSF midwives will continue to see her throughout her pregnancy.

Kinshasa, DRC: MSF staff labored to save the life of a 12-year-old girl who’d been born with HIV and developed an apparent resistance to first- and second-line antiretroviral treatment because of shoddy, inconsistent care early in life. She arrived at the hospital unconscious, convulsing, in critical condition. After several hours of care, she woke up and asked for food—weak, tired, but stable.

Kailahun, Sierra Leone: A 14-year-old boy, his 23-year-old sister, and their grandmother returned home after recovering from Ebola.

Amman, Jordan; Ramtha, Jordan; Domeez, Iraq; Bekaa Valley, Lebanon: Though it didn’t happen in the last few days, for a look at all the work MSF teams in the countries surrounding Syria did on a single day late last year, see MSF’s Reach of War project.

Doctor counselling a Yazidi family displaced in Dalal informal settlement, Zakho .
Gabrielle Klein/MSF