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Four healthcare professionals stand talking amid empty beds in the Khayelitsha Field Hospital created by Doctors Without Borders

Doctors Without Borders: Expanding Support in South Africa

COVID-19 Project Overview

In March 2020, the township of Khayelitsha in the Western Cape recorded one of South Africa’s first confirmed cases of COVID-19. With a population of 500,000 people living in crowded spaces — many in shacks and informal housing without access to running water or sanitation — the daily number of infections quickly skyrocketed and Khayelitsha became a regional hotspot for the virus.

In response, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) developed a 60-bed overflow facility to treat patients with moderate to severe cases of COVID-19, and sent additional medical professionals and staff to support local care teams. Khayelitsha Field Hospital provides dedicated nursing care, essential medicine, oxygen, personal protection equipment (PPE), sanitation, water, and more.

This partnership with MSF has been essential for us at the Khayelitsha District Hospital, given the bed pressure brought about by COVID-19. Having this field hospital right across the road from us makes it easier and helps to allay fears in the community.

Dr. Trevor Mnguni, Khayelitsha District Hospital Team Member

How it Helps

For more than two decades, MSF has worked with the Khayelitsha community to address the region’s significant concentration of HIV and drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB). When COVID-19 cases spiked across the Western Cape and local hospitals began running out of beds, MSF rapidly shifted its support to meet the community’s new healthcare needs.

With care teams at the Khayelitsha District Hospital overwhelmed by coronavirus patients, people with HIV and TB experienced a disruption in treatments early on. Many were afraid to leave their homes or pick up medicine, which made an already precarious situation even worse.

But thanks to a joint effort by South Africa’s Department of Health, MSF, and other partners, healthcare professionals are available to care for coronavirus patients while also ensuring people with HIV and TB aren’t forgotten.

Saving Lives By Building on a 20-year Partnership

MSF is delivering medications directly to patients’ homes to prevent coronavirus exposure and limit the need for people to visit overloaded healthcare facilities. The organization is also integrating HIV and TB testing into its coronavirus response since TB can often be misdiagnosed as COVID-19.

By rapidly adapting to current needs and leveraging learnings from previous experience treating epidemics, MSF is able to aid Khayelitsha during the COVID-19 pandemic. And by bringing in additional support, they avoid losing the ground gained in treating HIV and TB.

Foundation Project Lead

Stronger Together: Our COVID-19 Response

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