Khartoum - Together with the Ministry of Health, local communities and leaders, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) marked the one year anniversary of the opening of the kala azar treatment center on Friday, March 5, 2011, in the village of Tabarak Allah, in Al-Gedaref State, eastern Sudan.
Visceral leshmaniasis (VL), also known as kala azar, is a parasitic disease transmitted by the bite of the sand fly. Over the past year in this kala azar endemic region, MSF treated over 1200 patients.
“If left untreated, kala azar results in a 95 percent mortality rate,” said Kevin Coppock, MSF Head of Mission in Sudan. “This last year MSF, with the Ministry of Health, was able to save many lives. We plan to share diagnostic tools with other health centers and provide training to local medical staff on performing a kala azar diagnostic test. This way people will not have to travel for hours to get tested, our hope is that we will be able to save many more lives.”
As kala azar is a neglected disease and affects remote, impoverished areas, pharmaceutical companies scarcely invest in developing new diagnostic or treatment tools due to minimal gains.
The most frequently used kala azar treatment, SSG, was created in 1930. MSF, along with internationally renowned Sudanese medical experts, plans to launch more studies on diagnostics and treatment. The MSF-founded Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative, in partnership with the Institute of Endemic Diseases from Khartoum University, studied a new method of treatment in Al-Gedaref area and it was shown to be effective.
MSF’s kala azar treatment center will now introduce this recently approved drug therapy that reduces the length of kala azar treatment from 30 to 17 days.
“Usually MSF works as an emergency organization, however in Tabarak Allah, MSF set-up a complete kala azar treatment center,” said Dr Rahama Al-Tigani, the VL national coordinator at the Ministry of Health. “Out of the 19 health centers in northern Sudan, only the MSF-run treatment center offers AmBisome treatment, which is expensive and needs to be stored at low temperature. AmBisome has helped treat pregnant women, people with a kala azar and HIV co-infection, and those diagnosed with VL relapses.”
In the past year MSF constructed a thriving treatment center with three inpatient wards which have increased the hospital’s capacity to 100 beds. In addition, there is a water distribution scheme and daily water trucking so that patients can have clean drinking water. MSF also constructed a waste management area, a pharmacy store, a laundry area for the patients and their caretakers, and an isolation area for inpatients with contagious diseases. A generator now supplies the hospital with electricity around the clock and MSF also facilitates trainings for staff from the Ministry of health on diagnostics, treatment, and nursing.
MSF has been working in Sudan since 1979, and currently provides medical assistance in Warrap, Jonglei, Upper Nile, Unity, Western and Northern Bahr El-Ghazal, Western and Central Equatoria, the transitional area of Abyei, North and South Darfur, Red Sea and Al-Gedaref states.
MSF is an independent medical humanitarian non-governmental organization, and works in more than 70 countries. MSF teams assist people in distress irrespective of their religion, race or political beliefs.