Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) provides treatment to people affected by violence, with a particular focus on victims of sexual violence.
Honduras has experienced years of political, economic and social instability and as a consequence has become overrun with criminal activity. Tegucigalpa, the capital, is one of the world’s most violent cities, and murder, abduction and rape are day-to-day realities for many inhabitants.
MSF developed a servicio prioritario or priority service in collaboration with the health ministry in Tegucigalpa, offering emergency medical and psychological attention to victims of violence, including sexual violence. Comprehensive healthcare services are lacking for those who are able to overcome fear of retaliation and seek help. The priority service, where everything is provided in one place and is confidential and free, is offered at two health centres and in Tegucigalpa’s main hospital. As many people, especially young women and girls, do not know that this help exists, MSF’s health promotion teams focus on sensitisation and outreach activities to spread the word, and consequently the number of victims of sexual violence seeking assistance within 72 hours increased this year.
In 2014, MSF treated 700 victims of violence, including 560 victims of sexual violence, and carried out 1,770 mental health consultations. Medical treatment for rape includes post-exposure prophylaxis to prevent HIV infection and provide protection against other sexually transmitted infections, hepatitis B and tetanus. The mental healthcare includes counselling and psychological first aid. The emergency contraceptive pill, however, has been banned in Honduras since 2009. A debate was initiated in 2014 in the Honduran Congress to change the policy on emergency contraception, and it continues today. MSF has taken part in the discussions and has highlighted the psychological and medical consequences of pregnancy as a result of sexual assault.
As there are currently no guidelines in place for the treatment of victims of sexual violence in Honduras, MSF is pushing for the health ministry to implement a national protocol.
No. staff in 2014: 44 | Expenditure: €1.2 million | Year MSF first worked in the country: 1974 | msf.org/honduras
Aurelia* – an MSF patient in Tegucigalpa, who was raped at gunpoint by strangers
Before the (MSF) doctors took care of me, I wanted to die … I felt dirty; I felt as if I had lost a part of my life; I didn’t want to exist anymore. But I had therapy and counselling and, thanks to this, I’ve been able to overcome a lot. It has changed my life.
* Name has been changed