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Improving health services for children in Egypt

© UNICEF Egypt/2004/Ingram
Twenty-three-year old Tahany Mohamed (centre) works as a senior nurse at the local Primary Health Care Centre, in Beni Shoqair, Egypt. Her specialty is reproductive health and safe delivery. She discusses baby care with new mother Walaa.
By Simon Ingram

BENI SHOQAIR, 12 August 2004 – She may be only 23 years of age, but Tahany Mohamed is already someone whom the children of Beni Shoqair have reason to thank.

For the past four years, Tahany has worked as a senior nurse at the local Primary Health Care Centre, a large two-storey building on the outskirts of this sprawling rural community, on the banks of the river Nile some 400 km south of Cairo. Tahany's specialty is reproductive health and safe delivery. Today, her first assignment is to pay a home visit to a woman who has just given birth.

"We try to visit all new mothers after they've delivered," says Tahany as she packs her medical bag with sterilized dressings, gloves, swabs and other vital items. "It's so important to give them support and advice to look after their newborn."

Tahany and two other clinic staff take a brisk walk through the dusty streets of Beni Shoqair. They arrive at the home of 18-year old Walaa Ibrameh and her day-old baby boy, Essam. Tahany weighs and examines the baby, and then shares some information about breastfeeding and other aspects of child caring with Walaa.

© UNICEF Egypt/2004/Ingram
At Beni Shoqair health centre, Dr. Ilea Abdu Ilea (left) examines a child patient.
Finally, Tahany gives Walaa a Vitamin A supplement pill – an essential nutrient for mothers after delivery. Vitamin A supplementation is part of a national campaign supported by UNICEF.

"This is the part of the job I like best," says Tahany. "I really feel I'm contributing something to the community – and it's also the time when I appreciate most the value of the training in midwifery and infant healthcare that UNICEF provided me with last year."

Beni Shoqair falls within Manfalout – one of six districts in the governorates of Assiut, Qena and Sohag, covered by a UNICEF programme known as Integrated Local Development (ILD), which aims at raising the standard of health and nutritional care for children in some of Egypt's most impoverished communities.

Back at Beni Shoqair health centre, the director, Dr. Ilea Abdu Ilea, says that with UNICEF's support the clinic is better able to deliver the services needed by Beni Shokair's 30,000 inhabitants.

"We're seeing more people coming to the clinic than before, because they understand the need for the help we can provide," says Dr Ilea. "Expectant mothers in particular are coming more frequently, whether for check-up, or to take part in the health awareness sessions that we now organize. Plus our vaccination coverage rates are now up to 100 per cent across the community."

UNICEF is funding the construction of a specially designed training room at the centre and also provides the video equipment used by the instructors for the awareness sessions, where groups of women listen to clinic staff explaining the importance of nutrition, hygiene and other childcare issues.

Tahany is one of the awareness instructors. "My ambition is to be the head nurse here one day," she says. "Who knows," she adds with a smile, "maybe one day I might even be the doctor!"




12 August 2004: Improving health services for children of Egypt.

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