MSF activity in Azerbaijan - June 1999

MSF began working in Azerbaijan in 1991. A profile of Sumgayt
  • 40 mins drive north-east of Baku on the coast
  • population 350,000 History 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 each year. 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. Present 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 defects. 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. This work 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. This assistance 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 and schools. 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 plague
  • health facility rehabilitation (including water supply) and vaccination management.
  • 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.