Going the extra mile
Mobile health teams a lifeline to children and women in the Central Highlands of Afghanistan
Daykundi, Afghanistan, 25 June 2018 – more than 150 children and women make their way under the scorching heat to the mosque in Miandara village in Daykundi province, to seek medical care from the mobile health team. They have limited access to basic services, and need to walk for three hours to reach the nearest medical facility.
The mobile health team, funded by UK AID, provides medical care to more than 10,000 people in areas around Miandara village.
Treating deadly malnutrition
After a bumpy ride through the mountainous terrains, the mobile medical team arrives at Miandara village, one of six sites to be visited. Large crowds of people assemble inside the mosque, as the medical team sets up stations for treating children and their caregivers and administer vaccines.
“it is important that mothers are better informed about child and women’s health,” says Abdul Raziq Amiri, mobile health team nurse. “This includes good nutrition practices among mothers, as well as improved infant and child feeding practices,” he adds.
Zainab is in her early thirties and her and husband is a labourer working in Iran. Forced to take care of their children, Zainab was worried about the health of her two-year old son Sayed Reza. After seeing her son frail and not eating well, Zainab sought medical care from the mobile health team.
When the mobile health team first examined her son, he was diagnosed with acute malnutrition, “We have lots of problems here because of lack of health facilities,” says Zainab. “My child has been sick for a while, and we have been so worried for him.”
Sayed Reza was first presented to the mobile clinic weighing a mere five kilograms, and after several weeks, his weight increased by three kilograms.
“We started a nutrition plan and guided Zainab how to provide proper food to her son Sayed Reza, which includes eggs, milk, and vegetables, and we also asked her to take care of her health,” says Arifa, mobile health team midwife.
“Thanks to the mobile health team, my son has recovered,” says Zainab with a smile.
Additionally, the mobile health teams educate mothers and caregivers on how to better take care of their children’s health as well as their own. They raise their awareness on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding and proper complementary feeding for their children. They also supply malnourished children with ready to use therapeutic food, and supplements to both children and women.
“If it were not for the mobile health teams, we would have lost many children, such as Sayed Reza to easily preventable diseases,” says Haji Naatyki Zaibah Kalam, Head of People’s Council in Miandara village. “Residents of this village are famers who are on the move, and lack any kind of support,” he adds.
Reaching the hardest-to-reach
The mobile teams are part of UNICEF’s equity approach, to reach most vulnerable groups of children and women with basic health and nutrition services. “Thanks to UK AID, 1.5 million children and women have access to basic health and nutrition services through the 70 mobile health teams,” says Adele Khodr, UNICEF Representative in Afghanistan. “In a conflict stricken country like Afghanistan, reaching communities become very critical in saving children and women’s lives,” she adds.
Against this backdrop, UNICEF-supported mobile health teams are often the only lifeline for women and children in some of the country’s most remote districts. While it is still hard for them to access some of the villages in the depths of winter, they provide health and referral services to isolated communities.