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Mozambique, 30 January 2017: Mobile health brigades provide healthcare to children in drought

© UNICEF Mozambique

The mobile health brigades are one of the programmes UNICEF is supporting the Government of Mozambique to reach the most vulnerable communities affected by the drought emergency.

SIFO, Gaza, Mozambique – As a group of mothers sit together with their children under the shade of a mafurreira tree, in the remote community village Sifo, in Gaza province, Mozambique, a woman hears her name called after waiting patiently for a couple of hours. She tentatively approaches the mobile health team unsure of the news she is about to receive.

Firstly, Rafa, 27, places her baby, January, 2 years 7 months, into the sling that hangs from one of the lower tree branches. January cries a little, unsure of what this is all about. His weight is taken and then the medical staff measure his arm using a MUAC band (Mid Upper Arm Circumference).

The medical technician (nutrition), Lino Filipe Chavisse, tells me that January’s weight is too low for his age based on the measurements taken under the shady tree. January’s mother, Rafa, says, “I heard the message from the loudspeaker this morning from the ambulance that came into the village. It said we should come for a check-up.”

Sifo Village is a one hour drive from Guija along a windy, dusty road that even the toughest of vehicles struggle to navigate. The nearest hospital is in Guija village, which is difficult for mothers to reach without access to public transport. The mobile health brigades are one of the programmes UNICEF is supporting the Government of Mozambique to reach the most vulnerable communities affected by the drought emergency. Lino speaks to Rafa then returns to update us on January’s condition. Rafa says, “I asked the medical officer why my baby is so sick because I feed him xima (maize) four times a day. Why is he underweight?”

Rafa is supporting four children while her husband works away from their home in South Africa. Occasionally, about four times a year, he sends packets of food to the village, but with the current drought situation, it is difficult for Rafa to feed her family as prices are increasing and food supplies are scarce.

Lino explains, “Sometimes parents do not take their children to the hospital immediately, firstly due to the difficulties to travel to the hospital, but also when a baby starts getting bigger, the mother may think that he or she is healthy. In actual fact, the feet swelling, or head appearing larger, these are signs of acute malnutrition.”

Baby January is given Vitamin A and also the medical technician, Lino, advises Rafa on how to meet his nutritional needs. He says, “Xima (maize) only four times a day is not giving the baby enough nutrition. It’s important children have a variety of foods, such as the bananas growing locally (or other fruit in season) and to cook some other cereals.”

“Often when the mothers take their babies to hospital, they are already too ill and need to stay a long time for treatment,” Lino adds. Families have lost everything in the drought affected communities. As Amelia, 29, mother of 5, explains, “My husband and I have lost our farm, we grew pumpkin, maize and beans but everything, it has all been destroyed this year. Vicente (Amelia’s husband) started to fish after we lost the vegetables, he tries to sell fish so that we have some money to buy other food for the family. The prices to buy food are much higher now, the only option is for Vicente to walk one hour to the nearest river and catch fish there.”

In Guija district alone, the mobile brigade staff report an increase in the number of severe malnutrition cases due to the current drought situation. At Guija Hospital, several babies are receiving treatment for malnutrition.

Angelica Amade, 22, says, “I came to the hospital six days ago when my baby Delfina, 2, had diarrhoea, vomiting and swollen legs. Now I am feeding her every three hours with a special milk. My husband is in South Africa but I also have one other child I need to look after at home.” The milk provided to the sick babies is a therapeutic dose used to treat severe acute malnutrition based on the baby’s weight and saves lives. Plumpy Nut, a high calorie biscuit, is also given to help babies recover, in addition to F75 and F100 milk.

More information:
UNICEF, funded by Disney Foundation and UN CERF, is supporting the Government of Mozambique to provide Plumpy Nut nutritional treatments and mobile health brigades to 594 drought affected communities (Tete 191, Sofala 209, Gaza 130 and Inhambane 64).

UNICEF and its partners have treated 1,422 children with Severe Acute Malnutrition and reached 31,391 children and women with water in the drought affected communities (as at 27 May 2016). According to Government of Mozambique (March 2016), approximately 1.5 million people are affected by the drought in Mozambique, including 850,000 children.

There is a funding gap of US$4.4 million of the US$8.8 for UNICEF to provide ongoing assistance to the affected communities through integrated health care, nutritional support, water and sanitation.

For more information, please contact:
Claudio Fauvrelle
Tel +258 21 481 100



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