For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Tim Shenk
Press Officer
Direct: 212-763-5764

Healthcare Façade in Turkmenistan Putting Lives at Risk

Government Hiding Existence of TB, HIV and Infectious Diseases

NEW YORK/BERLIN/MOSCOW - Turkmenistan's outward show of health and prosperity to the
international community is masking a dangerous public health situation,
in which government officials actively deny the prevalence of infectious
disease, medical data is systemically manipulated, and international
standards and protocols are rarely applied in practice, according to a
report released today by the international medical humanitarian
organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF),
which details its 10-year-experience providing medical care in the

During its time in Turkmenistan, MSF witnessed how people's lives were
put at risk by everyday medical negligence and widespread hazardous
medical practices, with blood transfusions frequently performed without
screening for HIV or Hepatitis C. Healthcare workers are operating in a
culture of fear, forced to turn away critically ill patients so as not
to negatively impact sensitive statistics on maternal or infant
mortality, or communicable diseases. People in Turkmenistan are being
failed by a healthcare system more concerned with its image abroad than
with tackling the real threat to public health posed by infectious

Read the MSF report: "Turkmenistan's
Opaque Health System

"It is undeniable that tuberculosis and sexually transmitted infections
including HIV/AIDS are more prevalent than reported figures would
suggest and the Turkmen government is refusing to acknowledge this
reality," said Dr. Leslie Shanks, MSF's medical director. "International
organizations in the country, such as the World Health Organization
(WHO) and UNICEF, are perpetuating these problems by giving a veneer of
legitimacy to misinformation from the government and to practices that
are not only ineffective but often dangerous."

Tuberculosis (TB), particularly in its multidrug-resistant form, is
perhaps the country's most serious public health threat. Given its
prevalence in neighboring countries, MSF fears a serious TB crisis in
Turkmenistan, which without an immediate and significant intervention
will lead to a major health crisis with broader regional implications.
Rapid diagnosis and treatment of drug-resistant TB should be implemented
immediately with the support of international experts if this is to be

MSF took the difficult decision to leave Turkmenistan in 2009, after
its activities were further restricted. The organization concluded that
it was at risk of becoming complicit in masking problems in the
healthcare system rather than being able to address them.

"International organizations must take up their responsibility to
actively promote transparency in the health system and cease to report
as fact data that are contradictory," Dr Shanks said.

MSF began working in Turkmenistan in 1999, when it first introduced
internationally recognized standards for TB treatment in the country.
For the last five years it worked in the country, MSF worked in the
district hospital in Magdanly in eastern Turkmenistan to improve the
quality of pediatric and reproductive health care. MSF took the
difficult decision to leave Turkmenistan in 2009.


Special Report: April 12, 2010

Opaque Health System


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Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international medical humanitarian organization created by doctors and journalists in France in 1971. MSF's work is based on the humanitarian principles of medical ethics and impartiality. The organization is committed to bringing quality medical care to people caught in crisis regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation.
MSF operates independently of any political, military, or religious agendas.

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