Increased district visits from MSF in Baucau

Security in Baucau and the surounding area has improved substantially in recent days, according to the U.N., and it is now considered safe to move without an escort in the city as well as on the road between Baucau and Dili and from Baucau to Virenque.

This has meant far greater freedom for MSF movements and the opportunity to visit outlying areas that have been without care due to security concerns. Within Baucau, MSF has maintained out-patient care from an abandoned military hospital in the lead-up to taking over a civilian hospital just one kilometre away.

The military facility has been a source of care for the local population and is conducting, on average, 55 consultations per day with a large percentage of the consultations being for skin diseases. The military hospital conducted approximately 40 consultations in the morning of October 7 and then started moving operations to the civilian hospital, about one kilometre away.

MSF is scheduled to take on full operations of the civilian hospital today (October 8, 1999). There are plans to move the services conducted at the military hospital to a nearby suburb, expanding the medical presence in the district. There are no cases of malnutrition reported from the military facility and MSF is conducting a nutritional screening procedure. Two MSF mobile clinics are visiting nearby towns on a daily basis, insofar as security permits. The first team recently visited Ossu on October 6, in the Virenque district, conducting 54 consultations. There are reported cases of malaria and skin diseases as well as some instances respiratory tract infections (RTI) TB. No malnutrition has been reported.

The second mobile team visited Viqueque on the same day and conducted approximately 73 consultations. There was a higher incidence of malaria, including severe malaria cases, as well as some TB and RTI. Once again, there were no incidences of malnutrition. The following day, October 7, the MSF mobile teams visited Queliquai and conducted 147 consultations. RTI was a frequent complaint. Queliquai is located in the mountains so respiratory issues would likely be higher. In addition, there was a large number of expectant mothers who were examined and booked for delivery.

With the increased capabilities of the mobile clinics, MSF is in a far better position to consider the needs of area health facilities. In Ossu, the health centre has been destroyed but there was an opportunity to do consultations in a nearby intact house. MSF was assisted by Salesians sisters who are in the area. According to the sisters, the town is nearly deserted as most of the people no longer live there. Over 50% of the town has been destroyed.

The locals visited the MSF clinic due to the Salesian sisters spreading the word in advance and encouraging local attendance. MSF appraisal is that the area is severely lacking in all health area and there are definite needs for MSF to remain in contact with the area for the time being. In Viqueque, the MSF mobile team visited the hospital located just outside of the town.

Current staff there consists of one doctor and two nurses. In Queliquai, the health centre has been destroyed and only one nurse was there when MSF visited. Severe health needs exist in the immediate future. A MSF team has already been scheduled to return on Monday. Although the area surrounding Queliquai is almost completely intact, the town is about 80% destroyed. Additional MSF staff has been allocated to East Timor.