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Chagas: MSF urges the governments
to focus their efforts on
the patients

june 19th 2009

On the occasion of the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO)’s 144th Session of the Executive Committee being held these days in Washington, MSF has delivered an open letter to the delegates calling for an increase in diagnosis and treatment for Chagas-infected people.

Dear Delegate,

Prioritising the victims of neglected disease.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has been involved for many years in ensuring that the victims of neglected diseases are diagnosed and treated. Too often, these people are also living in immense poverty, overlooked by governments and health systems and left to suffer in silence.

On the eve of the 144th Session of the Executive Committee meeting, we urge delegates to seize the opportunity to focus on improving the lives of victims of neglected diseases. Having read and analysed the scientific report and proposed resolution for discussion, we request that delegates consider patient access to diagnosis and treatment at the primary health care level, in addition to vector elimination and other items already included in the agenda.

In particular, on the 100th anniversary since the discovery of the Chagas parasite – Trypanosoma cruzi – we draw delegate’s attention to the 14 million people across the Americas affected by Chagas disease. Despite the centenary, there is little to celebrate. Chagas patients lack adequate access to the two drugs available to treat the disease (benznidazole and nifurtimox) because of drug supply problems within national control programmes. This means that even if patients are diagnosed, they cannot be treated. However, despite the clear needs to improve the lives of Chagas sufferers today, scientific document (CE144/10) which discusses the Chagas vector and the parasite makes no mention of the victims of the disease.

We call on governments to act now and provide resources to your national control programmes so that diagnosis and treatment become a reality.

We urge governments to commit to finalise and approve the pending Chagas resolution at the 2010 World Health Assembly that prioritises patient access to diagnosis and care. Finally, we encourage governments to act on the momentum generated by the Chagas centenary this year to propose a Chagas resolution that outlines practical steps forward and calls for increased funding at the 49th Directing Council, 61st Session Of The Regional Committee Of WHO For The Americas.

Yours Sincerely,

Paula Farias
President of MSF Spain

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© Médécins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders · 2009