MSF reflects one year since the opening of the kala azar treatment center

March 6, 2011

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MSF reflects one year since the opening of the kala azar treatment center © Olga Overbeek

Khartoum, Today Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) celebrates with the Ministry of Health, local communities and leaders the one year anniversary of the opening of the kala azar treatment center in the village of Tabarak Allah, in Al-Gedaref State in 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% mortality rate, 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.” Said Kevin Coppock, MSF Head of Mission in Sudan.

As kala azar is a neglected disease and affects remote, impoverished areas, pharmaceutical companies invest scarcely in developing new diagnostic or treatment tools due to minimal lucrative 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-found: 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 was shown to be effective. Most notable MSF`s kala azar treatment center will introduce this recently approved drug therapy that will reduce the length of kala azar treatment from 30 to 17 days.

Dr Rahama Al-Tigani, the VL national coordinator at the Ministry of Health, said: “Usually MSF works as an emergency organization, however in Tabarak Allah MSF set-up a complete kala azar treatment center. 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 under low temperature. AmBisome has helped treat three types of people: pregnant women, those 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, 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, laundry area for the patients and their caretakers, and an isolation area for inpatients with contagious diseases. MSF also set-up a generator which supplies the hospital with electricity around the clock and as well facilitates trainings for Ministry of health on diagnostics and treatment, and nursing.

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