MSF Successfully Hands over HIV/AIDS Project in Transnistria

Valérie Batselaere/MSF
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Aid organization calls on local and international actors to pay more attention to the health needs of Transnistrian population

Amsterdam/Chisinau, February 24, 2009 — Today, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) called on the Moldovan and Transnistrian authorities as well as the international donor community to pay more attention to the health needs of the population of Transnistria.

MSF asserts that the policies of excluding Transnistria from humanitarian assistance have only succeeded in increasing disease and unnecessary suffering.

The high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Transnistria, which is four times that of Moldova, is attributed to the fact that the region was excluded for many years from international assistance to treat and fight the disease. MSF’s program was set up two years ago to urgently address the needs of the HIV positive population.

As the problem is particularly acute in the prison system, MSF prolonged its services to prisons for a few months of this year. While MSF continues to monitor and assist during its remaining two months in the region, MSF strongly encourages the Transnistrian Health and Justice Ministries to cooperate in maintaining and extending HIV/AIDS services in the prison system.

In addition to establishing a sustainable HIV/AIDS treatment program, MSF also had the aim of demonstrating to other actors that it was possible to work in the unrecognized republic. While there has been progress over the last two years in the field of HIV and TB, much remains to be done in this field as well as in other areas of healthcare.

“The Transnistrian authorities need to do a lot more to make it possible for humanitarian assistance to reach its population,” said Mark Walsh, MSF Head of Mission to Moldova. “Complicated and time consuming customs procedures as well as layers of unnecessary bureaucratic red tape act as a disincentive to organizations that genuinely wish to assist their people. In the area of HIV/AIDS the near absence of prevention and harm-reduction activities serves only as a catalyst for increasing the spread of the disease.”

Moldova, on the other hand, which is annually the recipient of tens of millions of dollars of humanitarian assistance, shares only a small percentage of this with the Transnistrian population. Often this comes with strings attached. Over the last two years MSF has witnessed a persistent unwillingness to separate humanitarian from political goals. Intergovernmental organizations as well as individual international donors must no longer allow medical/humanitarian needs to be sacrificed for political objectives.

“Increasingly there is talk of extending projects and funding being made available,” said Walsh. “However, we are witnessing very little action on the ground. For instance, there is an international ‘Donors group on Transnistria’ that meets bi-monthly in Chisinau but, to be honest, very little is donated. From a public health point of view ignoring the health needs will lead to greater prevalence of infectious diseases and increased hardship for both the Moldovan and Transnistrian population”.

MSF now appeals to all actors, both local and international, to address the humanitarian and medical needs of this isolated population in an ongoing structural way irrespective of political agendas and objectives.