By Galina Solodunova
OSH, Kyrgyzstan, 12 October 2010 – The lives of children in southern Kyrgyzstan, an area which suffered from recent civil strife, are now under another threat: diarrhoea.
|VIDEO: UNICEF's Irina Kalinina reports on work to train doctors to fight diarrhoea in Kyrgyzstan. Watch in RealPlayer|
Overall tension in the region and problems emerging after the crisis have left families particularly vulnerable to diarrhoea, which is already the leading killer of children in Kyrgyzstan. Cases of diarrhoea in children are reportedly on the rise.
With support from UNICEF, Kyrgyzstan’s top doctors, including the country’s Chief Paediatrician, have been working nonstop to counter the illness. Over the past month they have spent most days and nights training local doctors to use new treatments to help children suffering from severe cases of diarrhoea.
Nizami Aliev, a paediatrician from the Provincial Children’s Hospital in the city of Osh, said that cases of diarrhoea are complicated by anaemia and dehydration, both of which are common problems after a conflict situation.
|Dr. Zemplyanuhina attends to Kochokorova Asema's seven-month-old baby, Aida, in Osh, where UNICEF and top Kyrgyz paediatricians are training local doctors to fight diarrhoea.|
To confront the problem, UNICEF is providing supplies to health workers like Dr. Aliev, as well as training them in the most up-to-date treatment techniques. The three-week training session is the first in five years for staff at most family medical centres and local hospitals.
The new know-how, drugs and materials are now in the hands of some 2,600 trained doctors and nurses – and are already working on the ground to save children’s lives.
“We can now treat [children] with new drugs, use new materials and apply new knowledge and skills that we learned from our colleagues from Bishkek,” said Dr. Aliev, referring to the Kyrgyz capital. “Children eat corn porridge enriched with vitamins and minerals,” he explained. “When they leave the hospital, we give them a vitamin and mineral powder which also contains iron, vitamin A and zinc to protect children from anaemia.”
Armed with knowledge
The enthusiasm of newly trained medical workers is also helping to encourages mothers, who have experienced a change in the treatment of their children overnight.
|Mothers and children at the Provincial Children's Hospital in Osh, Kyrgyzstan.|
One mother, Kochokorova Asema, will soon be able to return home from the hospital with her seven-month-old baby, Aida. Ten days ago, Aida nearly died from the diarrhoea. Now, however, Ms. Asema says she has learned to recognize the symptoms of the illness and knows where to seek help.
“I know now that if the child has a high temperature and stomach problems, I must go to the doctors straightaway,” said the young mother. “I am so thankful to our local doctors and the doctors from Bishkek.”
For the trainers, the three weeks have passed quickly and are not long enough to solve all the health problems facing children in conflict-affected communities.
“We cannot sleep much,” said Dr. Zemplyanuhina, a trainer from Bishkek. “But we forget about this when we see that what we are doing is helping children.”
The joy of saving young lives brightens the health workers’ tired eyes and helps to renew their energy. Doctors of many ethnicities – Kyrgyz, Uzbek, Russian, Tatar and others – work together through the training, day and night, and the tensions which still divide many communities vanish inside the walls of the hospital.
As the doctors work to fight diarrhoea, they are perhaps accomplishing another goal: re-build social bridges long broken in Kyrgyzstan.
Social assistance for Kyrgyz children
Rebuilding lives in Kyrgyzstan
Families return to the ruins
UNICEF relief flight to Uzbekistan
Refugees pour into camps in Uzbekistan