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April 23, 2019

MSF celebrates 30 years of humanitarian work in Pakistan


April 23, 2019

Islamabad: While the government is taking steps for availability of drugs for the treatment of cutaneous leishmaniasis, there exists a crying need for awareness and vector control to prevent the spread of this parasitic skin disease.

Parliamentary Secretary for National Health Services Dr. Nauhseen Hamid made this observation while speaking as chief guest at an event held Sunday to celebrate and share over 30 years of medical and humanitarian work of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Pakistan. Officials from health and interior ministries, Economic Affairs Division, National Disaster Management Authority, and other allied departments were also present.

Dr. Nausheen Hamid commended MSF for working on key medical issues. “The PTI-led government is taking measures to improve the health situation; we are in process of launching a mental health helpline and will soon integrate mental health at the primary healthcare level. While we will also take steps for availability of drugs for cutaneous leishmaniasis, there is certainly a need for awareness and vector control to prevent cutaneous leishmaniasis,” she stated.

Also known as ‘Doctors Without Borders’, MSF called for stronger collaboration between government and non-government medical actors to improve the health indicators of Pakistan. With its focus being on mother and child healthcare and the treatment of specific diseases such as hepatitis C and cutaneous leishmaniasis, the organisation has also partnered with concerned government institutions to foster emergency preparedness and prompt management of natural disasters and disease outbreaks.

MSF’s Country Representative Aymen Abdullah said, “Pakistan has high needs for mother and child healthcare and specific disease such as hepatitis C and cutaneous leishmaniasis, especially in remote areas. MSF offers international experience, expertise and training for national medical staff, as we work in collaboration with the Ministry of Health to address urgent medical needs. We are committed to serving those in need and look forward to support from relevant government departments so that we can continue our medical services.”

MSF medical coordinator, Anna Cilliers explained, “MSF advocates in Pakistan for high-quality medicines to be available, affordable and adapted to the needs of the patients.” She urged policy makers to visit their health facilities and to replicate best practices from MSF’s integrated model of care for mother and child health, decentralized and streamlined hepatitis C care programme, and response to cutaneous leishmaniasis.

Member National Assembly from Bajaur Guldad Khan called upon MSF to restart its activities in Bajaur. “We are open to offer full support in negotiation with the Ministry of Interior for this plan to materialise. Cutaneous leishmaniasis in ex-FATA regions, as well as nutrition and hepatitis C are major issues that can be addressed if MSF starts activities on these issues,” Guldad stated.

MSF, which started working in Pakistan in 1986, has been an active humanitarian responder during emergencies including the 2005 earthquake and the flashfloods of 2010 and 2012. It is currently running medical activities in the districts of Peshawar, Lower Dir, Quetta, Killa Abdullah, Jaffarabad, Naseerabad and Karachi, and is one of the biggest treatment providers for cutaneous leishmaniasis in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

During 2018, MSF assisted 29,507 births across Pakistan and treated 188,420 patients in emergency rooms of Chaman and Timergara district hospitals. Mearly 4,500 newborns and children were admitted to MSF facilities and over 5,000 patients treated for cutaneous leishmaniasis. In addition, 11,369 malnourished children were treated by MSF teams across Pakistan, and 1,146 patients received treatment for hepatitis C, the audience were informed.

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