A new calm follows protests in Bolivian capital

"The worst started on Sunday 12 October, said Moriana. "We went to Hospital des Clinicas and saw that the ambulances had no medicines, so we gave them some basic kits and looked to buy more."

"It is really quiet right now," said MSF head of mission Silvia Moriana as she delivered food and medicines last Friday night (October 17) to Hospital de Clinicas, a six-building complex in the heart of La Paz, Bolivia. "People are waiting to see what happens."

The six-person MSF team in La Paz, including two doctors and one nurse, have been re-supplying the Andean capital's largest hospital after a week of violent clashes between the army and tens of thousands of protesters that has left 77 people dead and hundreds of injured and paralyzed the nation.

There were over 135 injured in the Miraflores Hospital, where MSF was present. Other hospitals in the city were also dealing with the injured, with the numbers straining the facilities and leaving many without materials or medicines.

During the conflict, MSF also provided food and blankets to some 250 people - mostly adults and families - who found sheltered from the demonstrations in the bus terminal in the centre of the city. The terminal is close to San Francisco square, where the demonstrations were concentrated and was a spontaneous shelter.

A week long conflict between the army and the protesting civilian population finally calmed when Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada agreed to step down as president of South America's poorest nation.

Since the end of September, there have been protests to a government plan to export the country's vast natural gas reserves. Many in this impoverished nation are also calling for higher wages, land reform, and a withdrawal from the Free Trade Area of the Americas.

The long running conflict has taken its toll on the medical facilities in the city and the ability of the staff to cope with the injured.

"The worst started on Sunday 12 October, said Moriana. "We went to Hospital des Clinicas and saw that the ambulances had no medicines, so we gave them some basic kits and looked to buy more."

MSF joined other national and international organizations in an Emergency Committee to help keep health care services running during the tumult throughout the city for the 800,000 residents.

Ambulance services have been restricted in providing services as the protestors were often distrustful of their objectives after their misuse by the authorities during clashes last February. There were also reports that ambulances were prevented from reaching people suffering from gunshot wounds.

The week long violence also meant health facilities were unable to restock their supplies and by the end of the week, hospitals began to experience severe shortages of food, medical supplies, medicines, and oxygen.

On October 17, emergency supplies from the International Committee of the Red Cross landed in nearby El Alto, bringing much needed relief.

MSF will continue monitoring the situation at Hospital des Clinicas.

Even after the calm had started, MSF continued supplying food and clothing to the people who were sheltering at the city's main bus terminal. They had been unable to return home immediately because the protests and chaos in the city had brought about a closure of the main roads. However roads were recently reopened allowing them to return home.

At present, MSF is hoping the present calm shall continue.

"If everything stays calm," Moriana said, "we won't have big problems."

MSF has been working in Bolivia since 1986. Currently, there are seven international volunteers in the country, working at a mother and child health-care center in El Alto and a Chagas' disease treatment and prevention center in the south of the country.

During the demonstrations, MSF closed the Al Alto project temporarily. The Chagas disease project continued uninterrupted with national staff members and three expats. services.

There are 20 national staff members working alongside the six MSF expats in the projects.