The Mobile Health Clinic Is Deployed in Cité Soleil
Most health centers are closed in Cité Soleil due to armed gang related violence. The mobile clinic intensifies the fight against cholera and malnutrition.
Eveline knew that her day would be busy, and that she would have a lot to do with women who haven’t got access to any quality health care for a long time. The crowd that has formed around her is made up mostly of women, their babies on their lap.
“If the mother has cholera, should she continue breastfeeding her baby or not?” Eveline asks in a very loud voice to a dubious audience. “She should continue breastfeeding them. The child cannot catch cholera through breastfeeding. Do you understand?” she insists. “Yes,” the women respond in unison.
Eveline Dominique Chery is an UNICEF expert in maternal, neonatal, and infant health in Haiti. Since cholera resurfaced, she has been working night and day to adequately meet the needs of women and children exposed to the disease. Today, she is in Cité Soleil, an area plagued by gang warfare, where access to basic social services is very limited. UNICEF, the Ministry of Public Health and Population (MSPP) and the partner NGO Medicos del Mundo Argentina have deployed a mobile health clinic there to fight cholera and malnutrition.
Most of the population of Cité Soleil live under sieged by gangs. Children and families face an acute lack of access to health, food and drinking water. Access to basic services, such as health centres, is considerably reduced. Only 4% of the population use public health centers and 64% are served by NGOs such as Doctors Without Borders.
Deploying a mobile clinic in Cité Soleil is not an easy task and requires a lot of effort at different levels. As the commune is controlled of armed groups, the principle of "Do No Harm" must be applied. Beforehand, a security assessment is carried out to ensure that the clinic can be deployed in the area, and that women and children can access it, without putting themselves in danger. So, with the partner NGO, a team of doctors and nurses is put together, furniture equipment made up of tables and folding chairs, hygiene kits, and medical supplies such as essential medicines for the care of children, women and men, vaccines to catch up with some children’s immunization schedule, MUAC tapes to screen for malnutrition and Plumpy'Nut to treat it, assembled. The clinic is deployed. It consults around 200 people a day, 90% of whom are children under five.
“As part of the mobile clinic, a team of health personnel screens all malnourished children and treats all malnourished children. And if there are serious cases that are beyond their competence, they refer them to other hospitals in the area,” explains Eveline.
In Cité Soleil, one child in five suffers from malnutrition. A rapid nutritional assessment conducted in April revealed 20% global acute malnutrition and 5% severe acute malnutrition. Children suffering from severe acute malnutrition are at least three times more likely to die from cholera. And that’s the case of Angelie Mompremier’s two-year-old.
“My baby can eat but she can't find food. She only takes breast milk when I have no other foods to give her. Before, she wasn’t usually sick but these days she is malnourished and sometimes has diarrhoea. The doctors gave me Plumpy'Nut and medicine. I have to give it to him twice a day,” says the 40-year-old mother, quite worried for her child’s health.
Plumpy'Nut is a ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF), a high-energy peanut paste containing sugar, vegetable oil and skimmed milk powder, and enriched with vitamins and minerals. By taking 3 sachets a day for six to eight weeks, a child suffering from severe malnutrition can recover completely.
Two months after the outbreak was declared on 2 October 2022, Haiti has reached its first 1,000 confirmed cholera cases and 270 deaths. With the mobile health clinic, community health workers known as ASCP educate families on how to prevent cholera and how to provide emergency aid to a person who presents symptoms of the disease, which are diarrhea and vomiting. Houses with suspected cases reported are immediately disinfected.
“With the great number of cases of cholera reported in Cité Soleil, the mobile clinic is an opportunity for the medical team to identify children who have diarrhea, all those who show symptoms of cholera, children and adults alike, and offer them an initial care here and afterwards, they are referred to hospitals where they can be hospitalized,” says Eveline.
UNICEF continues to deploy the mobile clinic in Cité Soleil where most health centers are closed or no longer operational because staff cannot access them due to insecurity. At the same time, one of the few health centres still operational in the area is supported with equipment and medical supplies.
In 2023, UNICEF will provide life-saving goods and services to children and vulnerable populations in the context of insecurity, health and social and economic crises in Haiti, provided that sufficient and timely funding of US$210.3 million requested is received.