South Africa: MSF screens for chronic diseases in the Eastern Cape

Doctors Without Borders (MSF), in partnership with Chief Ndabele Mtoto, Mnquma sub-district Department of Health (DoH) and other members of the recently formed Amathole district partners’ forum, will on Thursday, 11 April retrospectively commemorate World TB Day and World Health Day, in the hard-to-reach rural village of Chafutweni, in the Eastern Cape, through a mass screening drive for Tuberculosis (TB), HIV, diabetes, hypertension and mental health conditions targeting about 350 people.

The organisations constituting the forum include MSF, Aids Health Care Foundation (AHF), AQUITY Innovations NPC, Small Projects Foundation (SPF), Community Media Trust (CMT), TB HIV Care and Side by Side.

Eswatini new clinic. Photographer: Nkosi Mahlangu\ Location: Eswatini\ 24|05|2023
Eswatini new clinic. Photographer: Nkosi Mahlangu\ Location: Eswatini\ 24|05|2023

“This is the first time we are engaging in such a multi-stakeholder, all-inclusive initiative where we have pooled resources together to ensure an integrated approach for all chronic diseases, efficient use of resources without any duplication and full community involvement, “says Manighaandan Sivaramakrishnan, MSF’s project operations responsible for the Eastern Cape’s Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) project.

In addition to the screenings, the forum will raise awareness of all chronic diseases through health promotion activities at the event. They will also identify an external pick-up point in the area for chronic disease medication so that the community members can collect their medication closer to home, continue with the routine screenings there, and establish ways to link patients to care and follow-up.

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Getting medicine packs closer to chronically ill patients in rural South Africa
Many chronically ill patients in rural South Africa travel long distances to pick up their medicine packs, despite the fact these packs can be supplied closer to their homes with investment in external pick-up points. Our teams have learned through experience that chronic medicine for HIV and TB patients, as well as patients with noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes and hypertension, can be regularly and sustainably made available in rural communities via conveniently located external Pick-up Points. This was the reflection and message shared by MSF at the 2023 Rural Health Conference in Chintsa (14 - 16 September).

“The Department of Health has identified this place (Chafutweni village) as one of the communities struggling to access to healthcare services. Due to its rough terrain, it is hard to reach or access the area. It is also hard because the population is widespread,” adds Manighaandan, explaining the importance of targeting this area for screening. “These screenings are very important to ensure not only identification of the diseases, but we will also ensure there is follow up care.”

Expressing his appreciation for the effort put by the Amathole district partners in ensuring his community has access to healthcare, Chief Mtoto said, “My community will benefit a lot from accessing healthcare services through this event. My villages are located in places that are far from health centres or clinics. Many people, especially the elderly and those on chronic medication end up missing their treatment collection appointments and other important medical check-ups due to the distance they have to travel to get to the clinic,”.

“I appreciate the collaboration between the DoH, MSF, AHF, Aquity, TB/HIV Care and other partners in ensuring that this area is chosen as the host of this year’s World TB / World Health Day event. In the near future, I am looking forward to more collaborative efforts with these partners in identifying as well as the establishment of an External Pick-Up Point in these villages,” he added.

Eswatini new clinic. Photographer: Nkosi Mahlangu\ Location: Eswatini\ 24|05|2023
Eswatini new clinic. Photographer: Nkosi Mahlangu\ Location: Eswatini\ 24|05|2023

In partnership with the Eastern Cape Department of Health (ECDoH), MSF, launched a project in October 2023, aimed at improving and expanding the identification and management of NCDs in Amathole District through patient-centric differentiated service delivery models of care, where NCDs like type 2 diabetes and hypertension account for half of all deaths, according to ECDoH data, including a major proportion of deaths of people over the age of 50. According to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), South Africa has the highest burden of diabetes in Africa, with an estimated one in nine adults suffering from diabetes.

MSF has been working in South Africa since 1999 with a primary focus on HIV, TB, sexual and gender-based violence and access to healthcare for vulnerable migrants. The new project based in Butterworth is the first NCD project MSF has established in South Africa, although the organisation currently has NCD projects in other parts of the world and will draw on their experience as well.

Read more about our activities in Eswatini


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About Doctors Without Borders (MSF)

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is a global network of principled medical and other professionals who specialise in medical humanitarian work, driven by our common humanity and guided by medical ethics. We strive to bring emergency medical care to people caught in conflicts, crises, and disasters in more than 70 countries worldwide.

In South Africa, the organisation is recognised as one of the pioneers of providing Antiretroviral Treatment (ART) in the public sector and started the first HIV programmes in South Africa in 1999. Until today, the focus of MSF’s interventions in the country has primarily been on developing new testing and treatment strategies for HIV/AIDS and TB in Eshowe (Kwa-Zulu Natal) and Khayelitsha (Western Cape).

In Tshwane, we run a migration project, and we offer medical and psychosocial care to migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers, who struggle to access public health services under South Africa’s increasingly restrictive.

Previously we offered free, high-quality, confidential medical care to survivors of SGBV in Rustenburg.

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