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I recently asked a favour of my great friend and co-author of Ebola : Behind the Mask – Dr Anna Simon. Anna is beginning her SECOND YEAR as (Medical Team Leader (MTL) in Mweso, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). I asked Anna if she could possibly make time to tell you about her project and why your generosity changes lives. Please take a few minutes to read this from a remarkable woman whom I am proud to call a friend.

“Here in Mweso, MSF is really making a difference. It is an area that is ravaged by fighting of armed groups for the last 30 years, and no signs of improvements. Even though the land is very fertile, and the climate favorable for growing all kinds of food, many people are internally displaced – they have to leave their home and their fields because of violence by armed groups. This leaves them stuck in a internally-displaced-people (IDP) camp or with a host family, often surviving on a wage of a daily worker, working in someone else’s field, for just $1 a day and a bit of the harvest if they are lucky. That’s not much to feed a family of 6-10 people.

We treat about 800 children with severe malnutrition each month – our hospital has the only facility for children with complicated severe malnutrition in 4 health zones around us. Also respiratory illnesses and malaria are very common. There are about 700 women giving birth in an MSF assisted facility every month.

Then there is a large cohort of people with epilepsy or diabetes, who otherwise would have nowhere to turn.

We also give medical care and mental health followup for survivors of sexual violence: about 120 per month.

The ministry of health officially runs the program for treatment of patients with tuberculosis or HIV, with drugs donated by Global Fund and other international organisations. However, this is not very well managed, and our health zone often doesn’t get an adequate supply of HIV or tuberculosis medication. MSF supports when there are gaps, and gives technical assistance to improve the follow-up of these patients.

The health facilities of the ministry of health are not funded by the government, and nurses, doctors and cleaners never even get a salary paid to them. They depend on the patients paying for care and medication to survive themselves. In an area where a large number of the population doesn’t have enough money for food, this means they don’t have access to care.

We can only do this work because MSF is funded by donors from around the world.

In our project, there are about 7 international staff. There are about 110 Congolese staff who work for MSF. So international staff are really the minority. 

We are always conscious of where the money is coming from, and how this allows us to prevent so many deaths and suffering. It is hard to describe how much of a difference MSF has made here in the area. Unfortunately, the needs remain very high because of the ongoing fighting and violence by armed groups.”

Thank you for this Anna and thank you all for helping MSF save lives. Please spread the word.


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