MSF Month in Focus - July 2008

Transcript: 1. ETHIOPIA: Food crisis in the South MSF has treated more than 9,500 severely malnourished children in southern Ethiopia. Given that food shortages are frequent in Ethiopia, the government set up a food aid system. But this year, the situation is even more serious. Parents whose children are admitted to the program affirm that they are no longer able to feed their families. With the next harvests two or three months away, they find themselves dependent on aid.

INTERVIEW: Denis Gouzerh Emergency program manager "We see malnutrition among children under five, but today it also affects adolescents and adults, so the situation is very serious. In addition to treating severe malnutrition among children under five, we need to be able to work on an emergency basis to provide significant quantities of food to the populations in the regions where we work, as well as in other parts of Ethiopia, where the situation is likely to be as serious if not worse." In less than three months, approximately 50 nutritional centers have been set up in the Oromiya and Southern Nations and Nationalities People's regions. 6 of these are nutritional hospitals where the most severe cases are treated. Until now, the number of cases of severe malnutrition have been too high for our teams to be able to treat children who, although losing weight, haven't actually reached the severe stage of malnutrition. Our teams hope to be able to start distributing enriched food to these children in the third week of July.

2. MALNUTRITION MSF'S CAMPAIGN IN SUDAN At the initiative of Médecins Sans Frontières, UNICEF and Sudan's ministry of health, hundreds of experts, NGOs, doctors, pediatricians and nutritionists met in Khartoum in an effort to improve the fight against malnutrition. Enriched, ready-to-use foods are now available to prevent and treat malnutrition, but in many countries, their use remains limited due to a lack of political will. In Sudan, many children under the age of five are moderately or severely malnourished. Médecins Sans Frontières has come here to encourage effective national-level initiatives.

INTERVIEW: Dr. Amani Abdelmoniem Nutritionist, Ministry of Health (in English) "If we adopt that we will need others, from other governments to support this initiative. And a good opportunity is if we have a local production of this special food." Although the needs are known, the quality of food aid is inadequate, except for severely-malnourished children. But even then only three percent of those children benefit from these enriched foods, adapted to their needs. However, ready-to-eat products have proven effective in all of Médecins Sans Frontières' programs. Ninety-five percent of severely-malnourished children treated have recovered. The initiative of the conference was much appreciated&#… It remains to be seen if, in Sudan, any new strategies to improve the fight against malnutrition will be adopted.

3. SOMALIA Life-threatening emergency In one month, 2,500 malnourished children were treated in Afgoye and Awa Abdi, on the outskirts of Mogadishu, in Somalia. The number of admissions more than doubled between April and May but as new cases rise, international aid falls. Humanitarian aid workers are targeted on a regular basis, victims of kidnappings and killings. In this context, it is difficult to work on an ongoing basis and to ensure that the population has access to care.

INTERVIEW:/Kenneth Lavelle Head of mission (in English) "MSF itself has suffered serious attacks this year. We have lost four collegues due to the violence. Although it must be recognized that all the MSF projects are continuing to function with the dedicated work of the national staff, the problem in accessing to the population for humanitarian organizations meant that the needs are not being meet." The peace agreement signed on June 9 between the transition government and part of the opposition did not restore calm. Frequent fighting in the capital continues to produce population displacement and the number of wounded continues to rise. Since the beginning of the year, more than 2,100 patients have been treated at the Danyiile hospital. 56% of them wounded by bullets or injured in an explosion. More than half of them were women and children.

4. YEMEN Aid to Somali and Ethiopian refugees First aid on the beach. Thousands of Somalis and Ethiopians cross the Gulf of Aden every year to reach the coast of Yemen. Victims of violence at the hands of smugglers, they arrive exhausted, often ill and in shock. Today, Abdul Jalil is a translator for Médecins Sans Frontières. An Ethiopian refugee, he too faced the same risks of death.

INTERVIEW: Abdul Jalil (in English) We were at that time over 120 in very small boats so the first difficulty during this trip is the crowd so our seat is not suitable. It is very dangerous and there is beatings by stick and also they are threatened us by knives like that so I remember two of us are completely died when we reached this yemen coasts Fleeing violence in Somalia and the drought affecting the Horn of Africa, the refugees are arriving in growing numbers. According to the United Nations, 30,000 left in 2007. More than 20,000 fled in the first five months of 2008, but many die or disappear during the crossing and never reach the coast. Last year, 1,400 deaths were recorded.

INTERVIEW: Alfons Verdu (in Spanish) Coordinator Most of the time the boats arrive on the Yemen coast during the night and the refugees are thrown overboard. But they can't find their bearings and many die before actually reaching the shore. MSF provides medical care and psychological support, but international aid must increase. Refugees arriving in Yemen continue to face problems, but humanitarian activity is inadequate to meet their needs. In northern Yemen, fighting resumed a month ago in Saada province, with many clashes involving heavy weapons. At this time, it is impossible for us to reach areas where there may be many wounded people.

INTERVIEW: Isabelle Defourny Yemen Project Manager (in French) We're having difficulties reaching both the wounded as well as the displaced who are scattered in the mountains. Some of them have gathered in the town of Saada which creates other sorts of difficulties. It's mainly Yemenite organizations that assist them and we need to collaborate with them, but that isn't always easy. In one month, approximately 60 wounded were treated in the hospitals that MSF supports. In mid-June, the working conditions became too dangerous and our teams evacuated temporarily to Sanaa, the capital of Yemen.

5. DRC North Kivu Measles vaccination Joëlle is making her weekly visit of the health center this morning. Measles cases are isolated in this tent. This nurse called Joëlle to inform her they had run out of paracetamol. We are in Tomgo Haut, in North Kivu. Here, as in neighboring villages, thousands of people have fled the fighting between armed groups. They settle in camps or villages where the health situation facing residents is also extremely precarious.

INTERVIEW: Joëlle Chauvel Nurse "Here at the health center, they didn't isolate the children, they sent them and the whole family would get infected. So last year, we set up an isolation tent where the children stay while they are contagious." These weekly visits are also an opportunity to detect the most serious cases. The medical teams provide transportation to the referral hospital, where they are treated.

INTERVIEW: Anna Freeman Nurse "The children arrive with skin eruptions, but also with conjunctivitis. We treat both with antibiotics. We use amoxicillin, in general, and tetracycline for the eyes. Some are also malnourished and have problems eating. We supplement their diet with Plumpy Nut." To protect the greatest number of children, several teams are currently vaccinating in the remote villages in the southern region of North Kivu. Since early 2008, a total of 120,000 children between 6 months and 15 years have been vaccinated.