MSF activity in Azerbaijan - June 1999
8 June 1999
MSF began working in Azerbaijan in 1991. A profile of Sumgayt
40 mins drive north-east of Baku on the coast
In 1933 the Soviet Government decided to situate the infrustructure
for Azerbaijan's oil industry in Sumgayt. Over the next 50 years, the
population of Sumgayt grew from 6,000 to 350,000.
In the 1950's, other industries started to develop in Sumgayt. From
this time onwards, until the collapse of the Soviet Union, toxic chemicals including DDT and
caustic soda, phosphate fertiliser and even chemical weapons were produced in Sumgayt.
According to the UNDP, at the height of production an estimated
70,000-120,000 tonees of toxic waste was released into the atmosphere
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, many of these factories
lost their raw material supply, marketplace, and lacked the funds to
modernise to bring their production up to Western standards to compete
on the open market. As a result, the factories in Sumgayt today only
run at 10% of their capacity.
According to the CIA's World Factbook website, Sumgayt is "the most
ecologically devastated area of the world"
workers in Sumgayt suffer from cancers, heart and bone defects,
deficiency in immune systems there is a high incidence of birth
The MSF programme in Sumgayt
MSF targets medical assistance to over half a million vulnerable
people in Sumgayt, including a large number of internally displaced
people (IDPs) as a result of the war in Nagorno Kharabagh.
started in 1995 and includes four dispensaries providing free basic
health care and referrals. About 2,800 patients visit the four dispensaries each month.
MSF also provides assistance to government
health structures so that they can provide free and adequate health
care for MSF referrals, and a few vulnerable patients already in the
government structures whom MSF is asked to help.
comes in the form of providing drugs, medical and non-medical supplies
and logistical support. In addition, MSF has provided building
rehabilitation and staff training.
Since 1996, MSF has been implementing a scabies epidemic control
program in conjunction with the Ministry of Health in Sumgayt. This
program provides assistance to the governmental skin/STD dispensary to
ensure free scabies treatment for the whole population. In the region,
MSF is also involved in assistance to government structures for
preventative health care, cold chain management and laboratory work.
Health education is another important part of MSF's work, and the
organisation started such activities in Sumgayt in 1996. This work has
involved the dissemination of information on the prevention and
treatment of common diseases to patients in the MSF dispensaries,
during maternity consultations in the hospital and polyclinic, in the
skin and STD dispensary and to the wider community in public meetings
This public health education has included an awareness
campaign for scabies for children within and outside Sumgayt.
The MSF programme in Imishli/Fazuli/Saatli
MSF works in the south-west of the country in the regions of Imishli,
Fazuli and Saatli. Its programs include.
the provision of primary
health care to vulnerable people
public health education
reproductive health training for gynaecologists and midwives
STD prevention, diagnosis and treatment
a malaria program
emergency medical preparation for disease outbreaks such as diphtheria and
health facility rehabilitation (including water supply) and
MSF is also about to begin an STD survey in
Sumgayt, Imishli and Saatli in order to provide information to the
Ministry of Health for developing national STD protocols.