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World Hepatitis Day:

It’s been a busy last couple of weeks for our team here and staff in our projects in Meerut and Manipur. In the last week of July, MSF projects in Meerut and Manipur observed World Hepatitis C day by raising awareness about the disease, its diagnosis, transmission and treatment through various activities.

In Meerut, MSF unveiled a mural depicting various ways Hepatitis C is transmitted and also held a street play at the PL Sharma district hospital where MSF provides treatment for Hepatitis C free of charge. The mural was unveiled by Meerut’s district magistrate accompanied by the district’s chief medical officer.
Mural depicting the different ways HCV virus is transmitted. Copyright: MSF

Hepatitis C is transmitted in multiple ways and it’s important to increase awareness in areas with high burden. The play and the mural received appreciation for delineating the various modes of transmission of the HCV virus that causes Hepatitis C. HCV is a blood-borne virus that can lead to liver cirrhosis, liver failure and liver cancer, as well as a range of other systemic health problems.

There is also currently no vaccine against HCV which makes it critical to ensure a reduction of transmission through various preventive measures. This could include awareness campaigns, infection control measures at health facilities, ensuring single use of syringes etc. This month, MSF will continue to raise awareness about Hepatitis C through targeted health promotion activities, improving awareness among local leaders and sensitising key actors and service providers to the prevention measures. Since the project started in January 2017, 3,675 patients have been put on treatment among which 2,732 have finished treatment and 2,222 been declared cured of the disease after their last test. The remaining patients are still under treatment at our clinic.
In the next few months, MSF will start handing over its activities in Meerut to the National Viral Hepatitis Control Program that will scale up access to free diagnostics and treatment for the population across the state. MSF welcomes the roll out of the program. P L Sharma District Hospital has been chosen as a ‘Treatment Centre’ for non-complicated cases and promises to provide access to testing and treatment to the regional population.
“We hope that the model we have set up will be largely replicated in the coming years and that, along with effective preventive measures, it will allow to get closer to the objective of the World Health Organization (WHO) of elimination of viral Hepatitis by 2030,”
                                                         -Dr Hemant Sharma, medical referent, MSF              

We will continue to provide Hepatitis C treatment at our clinic in Churachandpur in Manipur. Photographer Jan Joseph Stok recently visited Manipur to know more about our project and the community there. Do check out this photo story to know more.      

International Projects

It’s been over a year since the Ebola outbreak hit the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the worst in the country’s history, and it seems to be only getting worse.  In July 2019, between 80 and 100 people were diagnosed with the disease every week. The outbreak is also continuing to spread geographically. Uganda saw its first Ebola patients in June, and Goma, a city of 1.5 million people in DRC, recorded its second case just this week. Since last August, Ebola has also infected over 2,600 people, and killed 1,700 in DRC and has been declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

Since the declaration of the epidemic, MSF response teams treating Ebola have been facing multiple challenges. Security has been a major concern. In February, two Ebola treatment centres were attacked, forcing us to withdraw our teams from those centres. Ebola is also a poorly understood disease and is often subject to various conspiracy theories. Healthcare workers associated with the Ebola response are still not trusted due to misinformation. They have been specifically targeted, sometimes resulting in crucial activities such as vaccination campaigns to be suspended, limited or cancelled. The only solution is to break down these barriers of distrust and work closely with communities to provide medical care. The good news is unlike the West Africa Ebola outbreak in 2014-16, we have a new investigational vaccine (a vaccine approved for clinical trials) this time. Over 170,000 people have received the vaccine during this outbreak.

In other news, we also welcomed the return of two international staff last month. Anna Maria, a paediatrician from Goa, returned from her assignment in Bambari in the Central African Republic where she worked as a medical doctor treating pregnant women, war-wounded patients and malnutrition in children. Also returning from his first international assignment was Murtuza Ghiya, emergency room (ER) doctor in west Mosul, Iraq. Murtuza has some interesting stories to share from his interactions with patients and the staff there. He is also a talented poet and has written something very interesting regarding his reason behind working with MSF. Do let us know if you wish to get in touch our international staff!

Know someone in your newsroom who would be interested in our stories? Click on the link below or email us at aditi.sonrexa@new-delhi.msf.org