Good afternoon! We have some important updates to share this week.
COVID-19 response in Bihar
As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to grow in India, MSF, in collaboration with the Bihar government, opened a 100-bed temporary treatment centre for COVID-19 patients in Patna today. The treatment centre, housed in the remodelled Patliputra Sports Complex, will be completely managed by MSF. This COVID -19 treatment centre, the first-of-its-kind to be fully managed by MSF in India, was opened by Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of Bihar in the presence of Mangal Pandey, Health Minister, Bihar. This temporary hospital will initially provide medical care to patients with mild or moderate symptoms to support the isolation of confirmed COVID cases, and reduce community spread.
"Responding to emergencies is at the core of what MSF does – we are putting our knowledge and experience in epidemic management to help mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in Bihar state." - Dr. Prince Mathew, MSF’s Regional Head of Mission Asia
As the pandemic evolves, and oxygen demand outstrips existing supplies, the focus will switch to providing high-flow oxygen to moderate-severe cases, and dignified palliative care to those who require it. The indoor stadium was remodelled by MSF to become a temporary treatment center with facilities like triage, isolation, personal protection equipment, and infection prevention and control measures. Managed by 180 MSF staff from across the country, this center will offer inpatient care, mental health support, access to all essential drugs and medical supplies to manage moderate cases. You can read more about our centre here.
Caption: An aerial view of the indoor stadium at Patliputra Sports Complex. Copyright: MSF
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar visits MSF's treatment centre.
The state of Maharashtra currently has the highest number of recorded COVID-19 cases in India. MSF recognizes certain communities are more vulnerable in the state. In Govandi-Mankhurd suburb, where many live in confined spaces with lack of sanitation including toilets, waste management and clean water, the risk of infection is extremely high especially among populations with comorbidities. In addition to supporting community awareness and education, MSF will collaborate with the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai to run a 50-100 bedded dedicated COVID-19 health centre at Shatabdi hospital, Govandi to improve the capacity of case management in Mumbai. MSF will additionally distribute hygiene and disinfection kits in the community.
MSF to end activities in Kabul
Last month, we shared news on the attack at our maternity ward in the Dasht-e-Barchi Hospital, where pregnant women, mothers, and newborns were being cared for. This week MSF announced its decision to end activities and withdraw from Dasht-e-Barchi in Kabul, following the brutal attack in which 16 mothers were systematically shot dead. An MSF midwife, two children aged 7 and 8 and six other people present at the time of the attack were also killed.
Currently, no information has emerged about the perpetrators. While we do not know who was responsible, we know enough to realise that the maternity ward was targeted by an act of unconscionable violence aimed at its patients, health workers and humanitarian activity. This attack cannot be considered in isolation: the Hazara population living in the area has been subject to a series of attacks, as have various aid organisations.
“We were aware that our presence in Dasht-e-Barchi carried risks, but we just couldn't believe that someone would take advantage of the absolute vulnerability of women about to give birth to exterminate them and their babies,” says Thierry Allafort-Duverger, Director General of MSF. “But it did happen. Today, we have to accept reality: higher walls and thicker security doors will not prevent such horrific assaults from happening again. To remain would mean to factor such loss of human lives as a parameter of our activity and this is inconceivable.”
The end of our activities in the Dasht-e-Barchi maternity ward was a painful decision, fraught with consequences for more than one million people who live in the area. Most of them are from the Hazara community, a historically marginalised and poor population, many of whom were displaced by decades of conflict. With almost 16,000 deliveries in 2019, the Dasht-e-Barchi maternity ward was one of MSF’s biggest such projects worldwide. By pushing MSF to close its activity in the hospital, the assailants have also left women and babies without access to essential medical care in a country where maternal and neonatal mortality remains high.
MSF addresses the 2020 United Nations Economic and Social Council:
Last week MSF International President Dr Christos Christou delivered a speech at the 2020 United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) high-level panel on the increasing complexity of health challenges in humanitarian contexts.
He emphasized that while the pandemic brought suffering, fear, and death to populations everywhere, its impact was not shared equally.
“One of the terrible paradoxes now is that the very governments that have created conditions in which the vulnerable are left disproportionately exposed to COVID-19 are the same governments who are now making calls for solidarity and cooperation.” -Dr Christos Christou, President, MSF
Dr. Christos highlights how 24 of the world’s poorest nations postponed vaccination programmes in response to the limitations imposed upon them by COVID-19. In terms of numbers, at least 120 million people - mostly children - were not vaccinated or will miss their scheduled vaccines. Of countries where data is available, more than half report disruption or total suspension of their vaccination services.
“MSF knows from previous epidemics, that the reduction in access to healthcare has a devastating effect. In Liberia and Sierra Leone, the 2015 Ebola outbreak led to a vast increase in deaths linked to TB, HIV, and malaria. In the most recent Ebola outbreak in DRC, many more children died as a result of the secondary effect on the measles vaccination programme, than from Ebola itself,” Dr. Christos adds. MSF called on the ECOSOC to use its influence and power to bring healthcare for all. You can read the full speech here.
MSF launches Unite Without Borders campaign with NDTV
This week, MSF in collaboration with New Delhi Television Limited (NDTV) initiated a campaign to support our medical activities in the country. The campaign aims to raise funds for MSF’s frontline medical staff and healthcare workers, supplying them with essential technical equipment, personal protective equipment (PPE) and mental-health support for medical staff working during this stressful time. Contributions will also go towards containing the outbreak by providing masks and hygiene kits to keep thousands of the most vulnerable people protected. You can find out more here.