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At a glance: Gambia

‘One-stop’ clinic helps new mothers keep their children healthy in Gambia

UNICEF Image: Gambia: Mothers clinic
© UNICEF video
September 2006: A young mother and her baby receive treatment at an integrated health clinic in Fajikunda, Gambia.

By Thomas Nybo

FAJIKUNDA, Gambia, 11 January 2007 – In September, Sarata Hydara gave birth to a healthy baby boy at the health clinic here in Fajikunda. In the first two weeks he grew nearly half a kilogram, which she learned when nurses weighed him. 

The clinic takes a one-stop approach to health care and has been operating for more than 10 years. Women and their children often make the trek from surrounding villages on foot, so it's crucial that they receive as many services as possible during the same trip. Otherwise, it's unlikely that they'll return. 

When they arrive at the clinic, the women first register. Then each child is weighed, and at the same time the mother is asked about the child's overall health. Immunizations are next, and the mother receives vitamin A supplements that will be passed on to the newborn through her breast milk.

If specialized services are required for an injury or an illness, the clinic staff tries to take care of it on the same day. 

Tracking infant welfare

Fatou Camara is a nursing officer who is currently the acting head of the clinic, which she says serves nine communities with a total population of more than 20,000 people. Each day, hundreds of mothers arrive for various services. 

"These services are most important for the child – services like immunization, services like weighing [and] when they are sick they go for consultation," says Ms. Camara. "Their survival and development depend on the services that we offer to them during the course of their stay in the clinic." 

One of the most important developments is a tracking system that records a baby's health on a blue infant-welfare card. UNICEF has just spent $10,000 on new cards to make sure there are enough for all children. 

There also has been a strong push to educate women about HIV and how they can protect themselves and their children. Testing is offered, as well as counselling and medication if needed.

Preventable child deaths

Ms. Hydara says that knowing about the clinic and its integrated services helps her sleep easier.

"The most important thing for me is knowing that my health and the health of my children is protected, and that if we get sick, we know that we will get treatment," she notes. "There is nowhere else we can go."

Considering that more than 10 million children die each year around the developing world – most from preventable causes such as diarrhoea and malaria – clinics like the one in Fajikunda offer a highly efficient way to save young lives.




UNICEF correspondent Thomas Nybo reports on integrated clinics in Gambia that help new mothers keep their children healthy.
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