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Mobile health services reach out to children in rural Mozambique

UNICEF Image: Mozambique, National Child Health Week
© UNICEF Mozambique/2008
Health worker Fátima Jonasse (left), screens the nutrition status of one-year-old Siyabonga as part of National Child Health Week in Djabula.

DJABULA, Mozambique, 14 April 2008 – There was already a long line of women waiting anxiously with their children when health worker Fátima Jonasse arrived in the community of Djabula. Ms. Jonasse works with a UNICEF-supported mobile health unit, as part of an outreach programme which aims to reach rural children with vital, life-saving services.

Mobile health workers such as Ms. Jonasse are well known; they visit the local community about once a month. This April, however, as part of Mozambique’s National Child Health Week, the programme has brought a more comprehensive package of interventions, specifically for children under the age of five.

“My house is two kilometers from the local health post, but it frequently doesn’t have vaccines and medicines for the children,” noted 23-year-old Cecília, who brought her 13-month-old son, Siyabonga.

Cecília said she was there to take advantage of the opportunity to get vitamin A, vaccinations and deworming tablets for her son.

A comprehensive health package

Child Health Week aims to accelerate the reduction of mortality rates in mothers and their children under the age of five. 

The package of interventions also includes routine vaccinations, nutritional screening and in some provinces, iodine supplement.

“There are many days when I have to stay at home with my sick son without any assistance or medication. But today it is possible to bring Siyabonga here because I didn’t have to walk very far or take much time off from selling coal,” said Cecíla.

Reducing under-five mortality

National Child Health Week is a key initiative of the Government of Mozambique and is supported by UNICEF and other partners.

“During this week, we offer greater assistance to the communities through our mobile units and at the health centres, providing children under five with even more integrated services,” said Ms. Jonasse.

The first phase of the programme took place between 31 March to 4 April 2008. Subsequent phases which will be implemented later this year will also include the distribution of mosquito nets and vaccination against measles and polio.

“With this initiative, we intend to increase health interventions by taking the mobile units wherever the children are.” said Head of Doctors in the Maputo province, Stélio Alfredo Dimande. “It means that we can take the mobile units to schools, day care centres and where the mothers are working.”

The hope is that in 2009, the National Child Health Week programme will expand its services for women and will be routinely implemented at least twice a year.



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