Posts tagged public health

MSF at TEDMED
"If it’s not introduced, and it’s not accessible to people, then it’s not innovation. Medical innovation is a new tool or method that is made accessible that leads to a public health impact." Our ExecutiveDirector, Dr. Manica Balasegaram, presents a new definition of medical innovation at TedMed in Athens.

MSF at TEDMED

"If it’s not introduced, and it’s not accessible to people, then it’s not innovation. Medical innovation is a new tool or method that is made accessible that leads to a public health impact." Our Executive
Director, Dr. Manica Balasegaram, presents a new definition of medical innovation at TedMed in Athens.

Photo: MSF team negotiating with community leaders to start mobile clinics.  Afghanistan 2013. © Heru Sutanto Koerniawan.
MSF sets up its first mobile clinic in Afghanistan to increase the coverage of vaccinations and improve preventative healthcare. Read more on how the team set up and spread awareness about the clinic in Lara’s blog post.

Photo: MSF team negotiating with community leaders to start mobile clinics.  Afghanistan 2013. © Heru Sutanto Koerniawan.

MSF sets up its first mobile clinic in Afghanistan to increase the coverage of vaccinations and improve preventative healthcare. Read more on how the team set up and spread awareness about the clinic in Lara’s blog post.

Photo: Over the next four weeks, MSF project coordinator Will Turner and his team will mount an expedition to screen 40,000 people for sleeping sickness in remote villages of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
DRC: Through northern Congo with a fridge
Travelling along muddy rainforest tracks by motorbike and crossing swollen rivers by dugout canoe while carrying a refrigerator, a microscope and a generator is no easy task. But this is what MSF project coordinator Will Turner and his team will be doing for the next four weeks. 
Without treatment, sleeping sickess - transmitted by the tsetse fly - is always fatal.

Photo: Over the next four weeks, MSF project coordinator Will Turner and his team will mount an expedition to screen 40,000 people for sleeping sickness in remote villages of the Democratic Republic of Congo.


DRC: Through northern Congo with a fridge

Travelling along muddy rainforest tracks by motorbike and crossing swollen rivers by dugout canoe while carrying a refrigerator, a microscope and a generator is no easy task. But this is what MSF project coordinator Will Turner and his team will be doing for the next four weeks. 

Without treatment, sleeping sickess - transmitted by the tsetse fly - is always fatal.

Photo: Mothers await vaccinations for their children at the Bumpe Government Clinic in Bo District. Sierra Leone 2012 © Lynsey Addario/VII
"Decade of Vaccines" Blueprint Ignores High Prices, Lacks Ambition on Better-Adapted Vaccines to Help Reach More Children
Governments meeting at the World Health Organization’s Executive Board this week must seize the opportunity to improve serious shortcomings in the document that will drive the global community’s vaccines response for the next decade. If they fail to do so, some of the key reasons for why millions of children continue to die of vaccine preventable causes will be left unaddressed.
Countries will decide how to assess the success and steer the activities of the “Global Vaccine Action Plan,” a $50-billion vaccine initiative for the developing world. Although the high price of some vaccines threatens many countries’ abilities to sustain its vaccine programs, the Vaccine Action Plan so far does not include any measures to monitor or control prices.
“The cost of vaccinating a child has risen by 2,700 percent over the last decade, so it is puzzling that the vaccines blueprint for the next decade does not have a goal to bring prices down,” said Dr. Manica Balasegaram, executive director of MSF’s Access Campaign. “Governments in countries where we work are increasingly worried about how they will foot the bill for vaccines when donor support tapers off.”

Photo: Mothers await vaccinations for their children at the Bumpe Government Clinic in Bo District. Sierra Leone 2012 © Lynsey Addario/VII

"Decade of Vaccines" Blueprint Ignores High Prices, Lacks Ambition on Better-Adapted Vaccines to Help Reach More Children

Governments meeting at the World Health Organization’s Executive Board this week must seize the opportunity to improve serious shortcomings in the document that will drive the global community’s vaccines response for the next decade. If they fail to do so, some of the key reasons for why millions of children continue to die of vaccine preventable causes will be left unaddressed.

Countries will decide how to assess the success and steer the activities of the “Global Vaccine Action Plan,” a $50-billion vaccine initiative for the developing world. Although the high price of some vaccines threatens many countries’ abilities to sustain its vaccine programs, the Vaccine Action Plan so far does not include any measures to monitor or control prices.

“The cost of vaccinating a child has risen by 2,700 percent over the last decade, so it is puzzling that the vaccines blueprint for the next decade does not have a goal to bring prices down,” said Dr. Manica Balasegaram, executive director of MSF’s Access Campaign. “Governments in countries where we work are increasingly worried about how they will foot the bill for vaccines when donor support tapers off.”

Photo: Mateso Emilienne, 25, was picked up by MSF ambulance the previous day from Gatumba Health Center. Her baby was delivered via Caesarean section. Burundi 2012 © Sarah Elliott
Low-Cost Health Interventions Drastically Reducing Maternal Mortality in Sierra Leone and Burundi
Medical data gathered in 2011 from MSF projects in Bo, Sierra Leone, and Kabezi,Burundi indicate that the introduction of ambulance referral systems, together with the provision of emergency obstetric services, can significantly reduce the risk of women dying from pregnancy-related complications.
“You do not need state-of-the-art facilities or equipment to save many women’s lives,” said Vincent Lambert, MSF’s medical advisor for Burundi. “MSF’s experience can serve as an encouraging example for donors, governments and other NGOs considering investing in the improvement of access to emergency obstetric care in countries with high maternal mortality rates.”
The research, published in the paper, “Safe Delivery: Reducing maternal mortality in Sierra Leone and Burundi,” is the first of its kind to quantify the impact of such a model of care on maternal mortality in an African setting.

Photo: Mateso Emilienne, 25, was picked up by MSF ambulance the previous day from Gatumba Health Center. Her baby was delivered via Caesarean section. Burundi 2012 © Sarah Elliott

Low-Cost Health Interventions Drastically Reducing Maternal Mortality in Sierra Leone and Burundi


Medical data gathered in 2011 from MSF projects in Bo, Sierra Leone, and Kabezi,Burundi indicate that the introduction of ambulance referral systems, together with the provision of emergency obstetric services, can significantly reduce the risk of women dying from pregnancy-related complications.

“You do not need state-of-the-art facilities or equipment to save many women’s lives,” said Vincent Lambert, MSF’s medical advisor for Burundi. “MSF’s experience can serve as an encouraging example for donors, governments and other NGOs considering investing in the improvement of access to emergency obstetric care in countries with high maternal mortality rates.”

The research, published in the paper, “Safe Delivery: Reducing maternal mortality in Sierra Leone and Burundi,” is the first of its kind to quantify the impact of such a model of care on maternal mortality in an African setting.

Photo: The emergency department of the District Headquarters Hospital in Timergara. Pakistan 2012 © P.K. Lee/MSF 
MSF Works to Stop Spread of Post-Monsoon Ailments in Pakistan
A monsoon in Pakistan caused an increase in waterborne disease cases due to unclean drinking water, poor sanitation, and poor hygiene conditions. We’ve set up temporary centers and 2,840 patients have received treatment since July.
“Although acute watery diarrhea is an easily treatable disease,” says MSF medical coordinator Dr. Jacob Maikere, “it can spread quickly, so prevention is as important as treatment. Access to improved sanitation facilities and clean water are vital [in order] to mitigate the spread of waterborne diseases like this.”

Photo: The emergency department of the District Headquarters Hospital in Timergara. Pakistan 2012 © P.K. Lee/MSF

MSF Works to Stop Spread of Post-Monsoon Ailments in Pakistan

A monsoon in Pakistan caused an increase in waterborne disease cases due to unclean drinking water, poor sanitation, and poor hygiene conditions. We’ve set up temporary centers and 2,840 patients have received treatment since July.

“Although acute watery diarrhea is an easily treatable disease,” says MSF medical coordinator Dr. Jacob Maikere, “it can spread quickly, so prevention is as important as treatment. Access to improved sanitation facilities and clean water are vital [in order] to mitigate the spread of waterborne diseases like this.”


What it costs to fight acute childhood malnutrition

• US$ 35 will buy 150 sachets of ready-to-use supplementary food used in nutritional programmes to prevent malnutrition.

• It’s estimated just over $6 billion a year will cover the costs of supplying enough therapeutic and supplemental ready-to-use foods to fight acute childhood malnutrition worldwide.

Each year, Natacha, a single mother in Burkina Faso, struggles to get her children safely through the precarious time between harvests when food is scarce and young children are particularly vulnerable to malnutrition.

Malnutrition contributes to the death of well over 2.5 million children under the age of five each year. Ready-to-use foods have been used for some time to save the lives of dangerously malnourished children. Now we know that providing children who are at risk with supplemental foods, that meet their nutritional needs, will spare them from irreversible consequences on their growth and development and prevent them from falling into the life-threatening severe form of malnutrition.

Alexi was malnourished before reaching his first birthday. He lives with his mother Natacha and his two siblings in a small village in northern Burkina Faso. Natacha grows millet for the family. But the grain she harvests lasts them only four months and they go hungry the rest of the year. The markets are full, but she cannot afford to buy the food she wants.

“Eating millet porridge every day is the equivalent of living off bread and water,” MSF nutrition advisor Susan Shepherd said.

Natacha was given a supply of packets of peanut paste containing milk powder, sugar and oil, and enriched with vitamins and essential nutrients as treatment. This ready to-use food needs no refrigeration or preparation, and can be fed to children by their parents at home. Alexi responded well to the treatment: he gained weight steadily, and after just a few weeks was out of danger.

Ready-to-use therapeutic foods were developed to treat children already at a dangerous stage of malnutrition. But if his mother, Natacha, had been able to get hold of what are called supplemental foods, that contain sufficient nutrients for a growing child, then Alexi might never have fallen ill through acute malnutrition in the first place. His life and many other children that live in similar contexts of humanitarian crises could be protected this way. But today, the lack of funds means the foods needed to address malnutrition are all too often rationed to the severest cases.

“5 Lives” tells the stories of people who MSF works with every day, people whose lives often hinge on whether or not they can gain access to a simple medical intervention. These are situations that could be avoided with proper and sustainable funding and investment in public health. That’s why MSF supports calls to permanently allocate a small portion of a new financial transaction tax (FTT), which has been proposed by some governments, to support global health needs. A regular stream of funding would help provide some of the resources needed to address unchecked health crises around the world.

Photo: © Jessica Dimmock/VII Network, Burkina Faso

Each year, Natacha, a single mother in Burkina Faso, struggles to get her children safely through the precarious time between harvests when food is scarce and young children are particularly vulnerable to malnutrition.

Malnutrition contributes to the death of well over 2.5 million children under the age of five each year. Ready-to-use foods have been used for some time to save the lives of dangerously malnourished children. Now we know that providing children who are at risk with supplemental foods, that meet their nutritional needs, will spare them from irreversible consequences on their growth and development and prevent them from falling into the life-threatening severe form of malnutrition.

Alexi was malnourished before reaching his first birthday. He lives with his mother Natacha and his two siblings in a small village in northern Burkina Faso. Natacha grows millet for the family. But the grain she harvests lasts them only four months and they go hungry the rest of the year. The markets are full, but she cannot afford to buy the food she wants.

“Eating millet porridge every day is the equivalent of living off bread and water,” MSF nutrition advisor Susan Shepherd said.

Natacha was given a supply of packets of peanut paste containing milk powder, sugar and oil, and enriched with vitamins and essential nutrients as treatment. This ready to-use food needs no refrigeration or preparation, and can be fed to children by their parents at home. Alexi responded well to the treatment: he gained weight steadily, and after just a few weeks was out of danger.

Ready-to-use therapeutic foods were developed to treat children already at a dangerous stage of malnutrition. But if his mother, Natacha, had been able to get hold of what are called supplemental foods, that contain sufficient nutrients for a growing child, then Alexi might never have fallen ill through acute malnutrition in the first place. His life and many other children that live in similar contexts of humanitarian crises could be protected this way. But today, the lack of funds means the foods needed to address malnutrition are all too often rationed to the severest cases.

“5 Lives” tells the stories of people who MSF works with every day, people whose lives often hinge on whether or not they can gain access to a simple medical intervention. These are situations that could be avoided with proper and sustainable funding and investment in public health. That’s why MSF supports calls to permanently allocate a small portion of a new financial transaction tax (FTT), which has been proposed by some governments, to support global health needs. A regular stream of funding would help provide some of the resources needed to address unchecked health crises around the world.

Photo: © Jessica Dimmock/VII Network, Burkina Faso

What it costs to prevent measles epidemics

• It costs less than US$1 for the vaccine to protect one child from measles for life.

• It will cost $212 million to reach the Measles Initiative’s target of reducing measles deaths by 95% by 2015.

• The funding shortfall: There is a present funding shortfall of $43.4 million to reach this target.

"5 Lives" tells the stories of people who MSF works with every day, people whose lives often hinge on whether or not they can gain access to a simple medical intervention. These are situations that could be avoided with proper and sustainable funding and investment in public health. That’s why MSF supports calls to permanently allocate a small portion of a new financial transaction tax (FTT), which has been proposed by some governments, to support global health needs. A regular stream of funding would help provide some of the resources needed to address unchecked health crises around the world.

Earlier this year, Dr. Northan Hortado and his colleagues, faced with an exploding measles epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo, took part in a massive emergency response program and vaccinated three million children.

Lack of support for basic immunization programs means that MSF teams are seeing more and more measles outbreaks that are unnecessarily claiming children’s lives.

Great strides have been made to rid the world of measles - one of the biggest childhood killers that used to claim over two and a half million children’s lives a year. Following the launch of a global initiative in 2001, the numbers of children dying of measles-related conditions dropped by 78 percent. But recently, donors have cut back on funding measles immunization efforts. This trend now threatens to reverse the tremendous gains made.

“The problem is that the fight against measles is no longer seen as a political priority – not within ministries of health and not by donors, who are reducing funding,” said Gwenola François, measles vaccination campaign manager in the DRC. “It costs just one dollar for the vaccine to protect a child against measles for life. Organizations like MSF cannot just continue to rush in to put out the fires caused by these…long term deficiencies of measles prevention programs.”

"5 Lives" tells the stories of people who MSF works with every day, people whose lives often hinge on whether or not they can gain access to a simple medical intervention. These are situations that could be avoided with proper and sustainable funding and investment in public health. That’s why MSF supports calls to permanently allocate a small portion of a new financial transaction tax (FTT), which has been proposed by some governments, to support global health needs. A regular stream of funding would help provide some of the resources needed to address unchecked health crises around the world.

Photo: © Gwenn Dubourthoumieu

Earlier this year, Dr. Northan Hortado and his colleagues, faced with an exploding measles epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo, took part in a massive emergency response program and vaccinated three million children.

Lack of support for basic immunization programs means that MSF teams are seeing more and more measles outbreaks that are unnecessarily claiming children’s lives.

Great strides have been made to rid the world of measles - one of the biggest childhood killers that used to claim over two and a half million children’s lives a year. Following the launch of a global initiative in 2001, the numbers of children dying of measles-related conditions dropped by 78 percent. But recently, donors have cut back on funding measles immunization efforts. This trend now threatens to reverse the tremendous gains made.

“The problem is that the fight against measles is no longer seen as a political priority – not within ministries of health and not by donors, who are reducing funding,” said Gwenola François, measles vaccination campaign manager in the DRC. “It costs just one dollar for the vaccine to protect a child against measles for life. Organizations like MSF cannot just continue to rush in to put out the fires caused by these…long term deficiencies of measles prevention programs.

"5 Lives" tells the stories of people who MSF works with every day, people whose lives often hinge on whether or not they can gain access to a simple medical intervention. These are situations that could be avoided with proper and sustainable funding and investment in public health. That’s why MSF supports calls to permanently allocate a small portion of a new financial transaction tax (FTT), which has been proposed by some governments, to support global health needs. A regular stream of funding would help provide some of the resources needed to address unchecked health crises around the world.

Photo: © Gwenn Dubourthoumieu

What it costs to diagnose and cut the time to life-saving tuberculosis treatment

• One test cartridge of the new test costs at best US$17 and each machine is priced at $17,000 in developing countries. Those costs are still very high for developing countries and efforts must be made to reduce them and come up with a test that is equally well performing but cheaper.

• Treatment for drug-resistant TB can be up to almost $9,000 - nearly 475 times more than a $19 treatment course for drug-sensitive TB.

• The funding shortfall: WHO estimates that for 2012 there is US$1.5 billion shortfall to
prevent, test, and treat TB properly, $1 billion is needed for R&D for better tools including the development of a rapid and more affordable point-of-care TB test and new and better drugs.

"5 Lives" tells the stories of people who MSF works with every day, people whose lives often hinge on whether or not they can gain access to a simple medical intervention. These are situations that could be avoided with proper and sustainable funding and investment in public health. That’s why MSF supports calls to permanently allocate a small portion of a new financial transaction tax (FTT), which has been proposed by some governments, to support global health needs. A regular stream of funding would help provide some of the resources needed to address unchecked health crises around the world.

At 21 years old Phumeza should have her whole life to look forward to. Right now she’s confined to a bed in a tuberculosis (TB) care centre in Khayelitsha near Cape Town, South Africa on treatment for the most virulent form of TB currently known – extensively drug-resistant TB, or XDR-TB.

Phumeza doesn’t know how she contracted TB. She thinks it could have been on a crowded bus or at school. She knows she felt ill and that no-one could tell her what was
wrong. So began a long and painful journey of misdiagnosis and waiting while she just got sicker and sicker.

“At first, they gave me aspirins and paracetamol,” Phumeza said. “They didn’t see any TB on the smear they took. I had so many different tests but they still couldn’t see what was
wrong! I just got more sick.”

Finally, nearly two months later Phumeza was diagnosed in hospital with MDR-TB (multidrug-resistant TB) by which time she was so ill she was forced to drop out of school.

“Sometimes I didn’t know whether I was coming or going,” she said.

Last year for the first time in ten years, the number of people dying from TB worldwide dropped, but still every year we miss diagnosing and treating around three million cases of TB. And half of those people die as a result of not being treated. So many people with this curable disease fall through the net because, until recently, the tests to confirm that someone has active TB or not have been so completely inadequate.

Now, a new test using molecular technology is clearing the path for getting many more people on the treatment they need earlier. It’s still only a start – too many patients will still be kept waiting for a diagnosis so they can get the treatment they need but some first steps have at least been taken to improve TB diagnostics.

"5 Lives" tells the stories of people who MSF works with every day, people whose lives often hinge on whether or not they can gain access to a simple medical intervention. These are situations that could be avoided with proper and sustainable funding and investment in public health. That’s why MSF supports calls to permanently allocate a small portion of a new financial transaction tax (FTT), which has been proposed by some governments, to support global health needs. A regular stream of funding would help provide some of the resources needed to address unchecked health crises around the world.

Photo: © Samantha Reinder

At 21 years old Phumeza should have her whole life to look forward to. Right now she’s confined to a bed in a tuberculosis (TB) care centre in Khayelitsha near Cape Town, South Africa on treatment for the most virulent form of TB currently known – extensively drug-resistant TB, or XDR-TB.

Phumeza doesn’t know how she contracted TB. She thinks it could have been on a crowded bus or at school. She knows she felt ill and that no-one could tell her what was
wrong. So began a long and painful journey of misdiagnosis and waiting while she just got sicker and sicker.

“At first, they gave me aspirins and paracetamol,” Phumeza said. “They didn’t see any TB on the smear they took. I had so many different tests but they still couldn’t see what was
wrong! I just got more sick.”

Finally, nearly two months later Phumeza was diagnosed in hospital with MDR-TB (multidrug-resistant TB) by which time she was so ill she was forced to drop out of school.

“Sometimes I didn’t know whether I was coming or going,” she said.

Last year for the first time in ten years, the number of people dying from TB worldwide dropped, but still every year we miss diagnosing and treating around three million cases of TB. And half of those people die as a result of not being treated. So many people with this curable disease fall through the net because, until recently, the tests to confirm that someone has active TB or not have been so completely inadequate.

Now, a new test using molecular technology is clearing the path for getting many more people on the treatment they need earlier. It’s still only a start – too many patients will still be kept waiting for a diagnosis so they can get the treatment they need but some first steps have at least been taken to improve TB diagnostics.

"5 Lives" tells the stories of people who MSF works with every day, people whose lives often hinge on whether or not they can gain access to a simple medical intervention. These are situations that could be avoided with proper and sustainable funding and investment in public health. That’s why MSF supports calls to permanently allocate a small portion of a new financial transaction tax (FTT), which has been proposed by some governments, to support global health needs. A regular stream of funding would help provide some of the resources needed to address unchecked health crises around the world.

Photo: © Samantha Reinder

What it costs to save more lives and help prevent transmission of HIV

• It costs roughly US$150 for the HIV medicines to treat a person for one year.

• UNAIDS estimates that by dramatically expanding treatment now, seven million deaths and more than 12 million new infections can be averted by 2020. This would require an additional $6 billion each year.

• The funding shortfall: Donors are radically scaling back on funding global HIV/AIDS. The main funder of global HIV programmes, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, for the first time in its ten-year history has had to skip a year of approving new proposals because of lack of funding. It needs an estimated US$4.5 billion over the next two years to fund new proposals, but only has $800 million.

"5 Lives" tells the stories of people who MSF works with every day, people whose lives often hinge on whether or not they can gain access to a simple medical intervention. These are situations that could be avoided with proper and sustainable funding and investment in public health. That’s why MSF supports calls to permanently allocate a small portion of a new financial transaction tax (FTT), which has been proposed by some governments, to support global health needs. A regular stream of funding would help provide some of the resources needed to address unchecked health crises around the world.

What it costs to help prevent the transmission of HIV to newborns and infants

• It costs roughly US$150 per year for the medicines for a pregnant woman for her own health, although much less if she needs a short-course for prevention. It costs around $40 to provide the antiretroviral medicine needed as prophylaxis for a child for one year.

• With access to antiretroviral medicines and appropriate health care, more than 98 percent of pregnant women with HIV do not pass the virus on to their babies.

• An estimated 370,000 children were newly infected with HIV in 2009, the vast majority of them through mother-to-child transmission. Half of those are likely to die without HIV medication before they are two years old.

"5 Lives" tells the stories of people who MSF works with every day, people whose lives often hinge on whether or not they can gain access to a simple medical intervention. These are situations that could be avoided with proper and sustainable funding and investment in public health. That’s why MSF supports calls to permanently allocate a small portion of a new financial transaction tax (FTT), which has been proposed by some governments, to support global health needs. A regular stream of funding would help provide some of the resources needed to address unchecked health crises around the world.

Catherine Atieno is HIV positive and the mother of four children. She lives in Kibera, a slum on the edges of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, where she works in the local MSF clinic.

Shortly after Catherine started antiretroviral treatment, she discovered she was pregnant with her fourth child. She feared that she would pass on her HIV infection to her child. Three years earlier, her elder daughter Joanne was born with the virus when Catherine did not know she was HIV-positive.

Catherine confided her fears to a friend who worked in one of MSF’s clinics in Kibera. As a result, Catherine enrolled in the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission programme (PMTCT) at the clinic. Catherine was already taking antiretroviral drugs for her own health. And during delivery of her baby, the child was also given medication.

“Lucky is a healthy girl,” she said. “When I was pregnant, the doctor said maybe either I will die or she will be born HIV positive. But when she came out, she was just normal – that’s why I decided to call her Lucky.”

Nine in ten of the 2.5 million children living with HIV acquired the virus from their mother either during pregnancy, birth or the breastfeeding period. But these infections are entirely preventable, by putting the mother on HIV treatment, as well as the baby on prophylaxis at birth and during breastfeeding. In wealthy countries paediatric HIV has almost been eliminated with the risk of transmission cut to 2%. Expanding prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) services could ensure that many other women, like Catherine Atieno from Kenya, are able to protect their families from HIV.

"5 Lives" tells the stories of people who MSF works with every day, people whose lives often hinge on whether or not they can gain access to a simple medical intervention. These are situations that could be avoided with proper and sustainable funding and investment in public health. That’s why MSF supports calls to permanently allocate a small portion of a new financial transaction tax (FTT), which has been proposed by some governments, to support global health needs. A regular stream of funding would help provide some of the resources needed to address unchecked health crises around the world.

Photo: © Sven Torfinn

Catherine Atieno is HIV positive and the mother of four children. She lives in Kibera, a slum on the edges of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, where she works in the local MSF clinic.

Shortly after Catherine started antiretroviral treatment, she discovered she was pregnant with her fourth child. She feared that she would pass on her HIV infection to her child. Three years earlier, her elder daughter Joanne was born with the virus when Catherine did not know she was HIV-positive.

Catherine confided her fears to a friend who worked in one of MSF’s clinics in Kibera. As a result, Catherine enrolled in the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission programme (PMTCT) at the clinic. Catherine was already taking antiretroviral drugs for her own health. And during delivery of her baby, the child was also given medication.

“Lucky is a healthy girl,” she said. “When I was pregnant, the doctor said maybe either I will die or she will be born HIV positive. But when she came out, she was just normal – that’s why I decided to call her Lucky.”

Nine in ten of the 2.5 million children living with HIV acquired the virus from their mother either during pregnancy, birth or the breastfeeding period. But these infections are entirely preventable, by putting the mother on HIV treatment, as well as the baby on prophylaxis at birth and during breastfeeding. In wealthy countries paediatric HIV has almost been eliminated with the risk of transmission cut to 2%. Expanding prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) services could ensure that many other women, like Catherine Atieno from Kenya, are able to protect their families from HIV.

"5 Lives" tells the stories of people who MSF works with every day, people whose lives often hinge on whether or not they can gain access to a simple medical intervention. These are situations that could be avoided with proper and sustainable funding and investment in public health. That’s why MSF supports calls to permanently allocate a small portion of a new financial transaction tax (FTT), which has been proposed by some governments, to support global health needs. A regular stream of funding would help provide some of the resources needed to address unchecked health crises around the world.

Photo: © Sven Torfinn