We are receiving multiple queries regarding our operations in Kashmir since the complete lockdown in the valley. Last week, we shared an important update on our online platforms regarding our project:
Conflict areas can severely take a toll on people’s mental health, especially when there’s stigma associated with seeking mental health services. Our survey, conducted in 2015, illustrates this. We found that nearly 45 per cent of the adult population in Kashmir show symptoms of significant mental distress. Since 2011, MSF has been providing free, high-quality counselling to people affected in the valley. Our counselling services are available in hospitals in four districts — Baramulla, Bandipora, Pulwama and Srinagar. We also work to raise awareness on the importance of mental health and the need for mental health services.
Kashmir mental health project through numbers:
Across the world, people flee violence and conflict in search of safety. One of the most dangerous migratory routes people take is on the Mediterranean Sea. People who take this perilous journey are often fleeing exploitation and arbitrary detention at the hands of violent militias and criminal gangs in Libya. Many of those rescued are unaccompanied minors, pregnant women and people with disabilities. More than 8,000 people have attempted to cross the Mediterranean Sea this year alone. On average, one person dies for every 10 who arrive in Europe by sea.
“ For many… the deadly Mediterranean Sea crossing is the only hope of escaping the nightmare… that they are subject to in Libya. ” - Dr. Joanne Liu, President MSF International
With the situation getting worse and European governments sinking even deeper into a flawed logic that the search and rescue operations are the problem in themselves; governments have failed to come up with a sustainable solution to share responsibility for survivors arriving on European shores. After having to suspend all our rescue operations for seven months due to pressure from European governments, MSF returned to sea again with rescue vessel Ocean Viking in partnership with humanitarian organization SOS MEDITERRANEE.
In August, we undertook our first rescue since we returned. While we expected to transfer all 356 rescued vulnerable men, women and children on board to safety as soon as possible, we had to wait 14 days at sea before we were offered a place for disembarkation in Malta. MSF has urged European government to stop these prolonged delays and urgently set up a disembarkation mechanism for people rescued at sea.
“We are relieved this long ordeal for the 356 people we have on board is finally over. Was it necessary to impose two weeks of excruciating wait for rescued people to be disembarked? These are people who have fled from desperate circumstances in their home countries and suffered horrific abuses in Libya,” said Jay Berger MSF Project Coordinator on board the Ocean Viking.
Access to affordable medicines
Last week our campaign for access to affordable medicines focused on pneumonia. MSF urged the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization or Gavi, to reserve its funds for the pneumonia vaccine and stop awarding its funds to Pfizer and GSK, which have already earned their fair share from global sales and funds from Gavi in the past.
Globally, pneumonia causes more than a quarter of all deaths in children under the age of five. The most effective way to prevent pneumococcal infection and resulting deaths among children is with the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV). Yet nearly one-third of the world’s countries have been unable to introduce the vaccine, largely due to its high price. The vaccine constitutes 40 per cent of Gavi’s total budget. Currently, Pfizer and GSK are the only two pharmaceutical corporations producing the vaccine, maintaining a duopoly that allows them to keep pneumonia vaccine prices high at the same time benefit from various subsidies including from Gavi. However, Serum Institute of India recently announced it would produce PCV available at $6 per child compared to $9 provided by Gavi. This presents a clear strategy for Gavi to reach more children and use its funds prudently.
“ Gavi has already awarded hundreds of millions to these two (GSK and Pfizer) corporations... With the expected entry of a new and more affordable pneumonia vaccine producer, Gavi now has a chance to stimulate real competition in the PCV market.” - Kate Elder, Vaccines Policy Advisor, MSF Access Campaign
International staff stories
We also welcomed back two international staff last month. Anna Maria returned from Bangui in the Central Africa Republic where she worked as a medical doctor treating various medical emergencies. She is from Goa and is looking forward to her next mission already!
Murtuza Ghiya also returned from his first mission in West Mosul, Iraq, where he worked as an emergency physician. MSF has provided care to more than 120,000 war wounded patients since the hospital there started functioning. Murtuza has much to share about his experience so do get in touch with us to know more.
Next month we will be releasing findings from a comprehensive study aimed at understanding sexual and gender based violence awareness levels and treatment carried out in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri district. Since 2015, we have been providing high quality treatment, including psychological care, to survivors of sexual violence, rape and domestic violence in this area.
We will also be attending the 50th World Lung Conference in Hyderabad next month, to advocate for a reduction in price of essential TB drugs and a scale up of better treatments for drug resistant tuberculosis. Please reach out if these stories interest you.
Until next time.