Chad: Helping desperate refugees

The exhausted, malnourished and often ill people who have been arriving in Chad have little hope of receiving the care that they need. The country has a chronic shortage of qualified staff and even many of its residents do not obtain basic health care. Treatment for tuberculosis and malaria is hard to come by, and HIV/AIDS care is practically non-existent. Epidemics including cholera, measles and meningitis often sweep through parts of the country, and food can be scarce depending on the success of harvests. Moreover, the country's medical system which includes user fees, excludes many in dire need of care for lack of ability to pay. Malaria is the most lethal disease in Chad. In January 2004, MSF started a malaria project in Bongor district, which aims to reduce levels of illness and death in the area. MSF is also working to improve treatment by introducing a new protocol that includes artemisinin-based combination therapy (ACT). The project will include a prevention component targeting pregnant women and children under five. MSF also runs a surgical training program at Bongor Hospital. In August 2004, more than 1,500 people were infected with cholera around the town of N'Djamena. When nearby health facilities became overwhelmed by the outbreak, MSF, in collaboration with the ministry of health, built a cholera-treatment center able to accommodate 100 patients. MSF also flew in cholera kits containing supplies and needed medicines. An MSF medical coordinator, nurse and water-and-sanitation specialist were also brought in to oversee patient care and the construction of the treatment center. MSF has worked in Chad since 1981. INTERNATIONAL STAFF: 66 NATIONAL STAFF: 580