Reaching the hardest to reach, the furthest from help and the most excluded is why we are here
UNICEF supported Mobile Health and Nutrition Teams (MHNTs) actively on the ground save lives
Badghis, Afghanistan, February 2019 – About seven months ago, the influx of residents of multiple villages around Badghis, a province in western Afghanistan, was triggered by one of the worst drought in decades. Meanwhile many others left their hometowns due to conflict. Eighteen months old Mohammad is one of the thousands of children uprooted and forced to leave his hometown. Today, Mohammad is visiting a UNICEF supported mobile health and nutrition team in Zaimati settlement in Badghis for checkup.
The mobile health and nutrition teams are serving communities in every settlement in Badghis. The team comprises a doctor, a counselor, a midwife, a nutrition counselor and a vaccinator. On the ground, both within communities and in the camps, members of these teams are dedicated to saving children’s lives, as well as providing treatment and counseling to more than 50 visitors a day.
The dire situation in the settlement areas are putting children’s lives at risk. Those who have left their hometown to survive are now threatened by the harsh winter. Living under a tent, cold and wet, majority of these children are at heightened risk and succumbing to cough , cold, fever, and pneumonia.
“Despite the difficult conditions these families are going through, we found family planning as a major issue among IDPs”, says Anita, the midwife. Anita and her two-year-old daughter, Sadaf, dedicate most of her day at the clinic in Zaimati IDP camp to ensure pregnant women and the breastfeeding mothers are well nourished and healthy. I am still breastfeeding my daughter and bring her to the clinic. Anita is from Herat but now settled in Badghis to help the IDPs.
“I hadn’t yet received the Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) training, but I couldn’t wait. I got all the materials from my supervisor, self-learned and volunteered to train other counselors and midwives.” Anita doesn’t miss a chance and ensures she and her colleagues reach every child in the settlement.
On the other side of the city, many IDPs have settled in Jare Khoshk. Sima, joined the mobile health and nutrition team three months ago as a counselor in Jare Khoshk. “we vaccinate every child younger than 2 years old, we ensure they receive 2 drops of polio every time they visit the clinic”, says Sima. “We are having up to 50 visitors a day. I am glad we’ve been able to help the situation improve. Those children suffering severe acute malnutrition are provided with RUTF and the ones suffering moderate acute malnutrition are provided with nutrition counseling. I have seen kids who are healthier now after their mothers practiced what we told them.
“we vaccinate every child younger than 2 years old, we ensure they receive 2 drops of polio every time they visit the clinic.”
UNICEF in Afghanistan was amongst the first humanitarian agencies in the field to respond to the dire situation of IDPs in Badghis. “We were starving so we left our village. We didn’t know if we survive here. With the drought affecting the whole area, finding water was our major concern. But we now have access to this clinic, we are provided with safe drinking water, there is a place for our children to play and enjoy their childhood, there are latrines built for us. We are grateful for the support of organization like UNICEF who have provided us with basic needs and helped us survive,” The additional winter clothes we received today are very much needed. We are very happy, as this will help keep our children warm,”says 55-year-old Sher Del, one of the community elders in Jare Khoshk. Yet Sher Del and all other bread winners of the families are concerned about the future. “We need strong tents to survive this winter and we need seeds to cultivate our lands. We have only two more months for cultivation, if we lose that time, we would have nothing next year. Some of us would remain here, most of us would leave this country,” added one of the IDPs in Jare Khoshk.