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October 24, 2014

Following a high level meeting on access and funding for Ebola vaccines convened yesterday by World Health Organization (WHO), Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has urged that plans to get forthcoming Ebola vaccines and treatments to frontline workers must be rapidly implemented. Significant investment and incentives are needed now to accelerate these steps.

The medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is shocked by the judgment rendered by Switzerland's highest judicial body, the Federal Tribunal. Following four years of proceedings, and in spite of two previous rulings in favour of MSF, the Federal Tribunal partly ruled in favour of the Dutch state by ruling that the financial burden should be shared between the two parties. This decision sets a grave precedent for independent humanitarian action in zones of conflict.

MSF program manager Filipe Ribero has conducted several evaluations at sites where displaced persons are living in Tbilisi and Gori.  In the field, there is a sharp contrast between a massive influx of international aid and limited opportunities — for now — to provide assistance. What is the current situation in Georgia?

Fighting has calmed in and around the breakaway region of South Ossetia, and the warring parties have reached a ceasefire agreement. The short, violent conflict has displaced a lot of people in Georgia, South Ossetia and the Northern Caucasus region of Russia. As of 20 August, MSF is still unable to access South Ossetia, the area where the conflict had broken out, in order to conduct an independent needs assessment and provide medical and humanitarian aid to the population if necessary.

An MSF emergency team based in Tbilisi has been able to gain access to the separatist province of South Ossetia and visit Tskhinvali Hospital. MSF, which already provides support to displaced people in Tbilisi, has offered to provide medical assistance in South Ossetia. On August 23 an MSF team was able to gain access to Tskhinvali in Southern Ossetia, visiting the republican hospital in this city where intense fighting broke out on August 7. The situation has been slowly returning to normal in the aftermath of the peace accord signed by Russia and Georgia.

In Tbilisi, MSF emergency teams are providing medical aid to those who have fled the fighting among Russians, Ossetians, and Georgians in South Ossetia. They are chiefly offering medical attention to people in shelters, some of them very elderly. Kalistine G. is having a hard time getting used to her new surroundings. This 82-year-old native of Georgia has been in Tbilisi for several days, where she has found refuge in an abandoned building that used to house the former Finance Ministry.

The Executive Board of UNITAID, the international health financing agency, will meet Dec. 14-15 in Geneva to decide on the future direction of the Patent Pool for AIDS medicines. International medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is concerned that a number of pharmaceutical companies are seeking to exclude developing countries categorized as ‘middle-income’ from benefiting from medicines made under licence from the Pool.  If these companies are successful, people living with HIV/AIDS will be made to pay the price.

In a decisive step to improve access to medicines in the developing world, the Executive Board of UNITAID, the international health financing agency, has given the green light for a patent pool for HIV/AIDS medicines to open for business. “Although these are early days, the patent pool could become a mechanism that systematically offers licenses to generic manufacturers, reducing prices and facilitating the combination of drugs from different makers into fixed-dose or one pill combinations,” said Dr.