Mobile health clinics: a one-stop shop for health services in Typhoon Odette-affected areas
Children and families in Limasawa, Southern Leyte, benefit from health services provided by UNICEF and partners
Residents of Barangay Magallanes in Limasawa, Southern Leyte, fall in line at a mobile health clinic that UNICEF, Samaritan’s Purse, and local government partners have set up to offer free health services.
After Super Typhoon Odette (Rai) disrupted health services in the community, the mobile clinic has become a vital part of people’s lives as they continue to recover from the emergency.
“A mobile clinic is simply the delivery of health services that moves from one community to another to provide essential health services. This mode of health service delivery is especially useful in reaching communities that are cut off from services or those in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas. This is also useful in augmenting health service delivery in the aftermath of disasters when the local health system is overwhelmed because of damaged infrastructure and equipment, and overburdened health personnel” explains Dr. Ma. Bella Ponferrada, UNICEF Health Emergency Consultant in Southern Leyte.
Aside from disrupted basic health services, poor sanitary conditions and lack of access to clean water and food in the aftermath of a disaster intensifies health concerns in communities, especially among children. This leads to disease outbreaks, malnutrition, and exacerbation of previous illnesses.
This makes the conditions sound very harsh. One of the reasons we have the mobile health teams is to provide more convenient access to health services for communities whose health facilities have been damaged/compromise and may have to travel long distances to access a fully functioning health facility.
UNICEF identified the areas heavily affected by the typhoon where mobile health teams can provide primary health care. These areas include Bontoc, Limasawa and Maasin in Southern Leyte. UNICEF also provided emergency health kits with medicines and medical equipment to these areas to address the gaps in health commodities.
UNICEF partnered with Samaritan’s Purse to deliver essential health services to community members most affected in the island.
“The services we provide here are medical consultations, health services, and prenatal check-ups. We are trying to identify children with acute malnutrition. We also target to help pregnant women and persons with disabilities,” said Dr. Archimedes Acala, Officer-In-Charge of the Samaritan’s Purse medical team in Limasawa.
Barangay Health Workers conduct social mobilization activities in communities where the mobile health service will be present, so residents know what services are available in the coming days. BHWs highly encourage people to avail of the free services because these are not often available in their communities, and since the nearest hospitals and clinics are in the city.
UNICEF’s mobile health service is set up as a one-stop shop. Upon arrival, patients register with the Barangay Health Workers (BHWs) for profiling. Children then undergo a physical examination where their height, weight, blood pressure, and oxygen saturation levels are taken.
At the triage, a nurse reviews their medical history, looks into their existing conditions, and assesses their current condition. The urgency of their health condition is then determined and they are assigned to consult with physicians volunteering on-site.
At the consultation, current health concerns are managed by the health team and when necessary, medication is prescribed which can be availed of for free. Patients with more serious conditions are referred to the nearest health facility with the appropriate capacities for treatment.
Oftentimes, as they wait for their medicines from the pharmacist, residents can also sit down and attend education sessions on infant and young child feeding, breastfeeding, minimum public health standards for COVID-19, and COVID vaccination from volunteer medical workers. Among other health services provided include pre-natal checkup for pregnant women and routine immunizations for children.
“This is a big help especially now that it is hard for us here. Some of us do not have jobs. These services are good because they are free and a big help for us who cannot afford to buy medicines. It is being held here in our community. Sometimes, if the illness is too serious and cannot be handled here, we have to go to the city. Of course, it means that we will spend money on our fares, and it costs a lot.” said Miraluna Tolentino, a resident in Barangay Magallanes.
In addition to delivering health and nutrition services, the mobile clinics also provide a venue for UNFPA-supported local volunteers to conduct education sessions on Gender-Based Violence (GBV). In crisis or emergency situations, the prevalence and risk of GBV increase. To help address and prevent GBV, the sessions aim to sensitize the community on this important issue and at the same time ensure maximum reach of interventions for both mother-child dyads.
As a way forward, Dr. Ponferrada emphasized that health services can be improved in disaster-prone areas by ensuring that health facilities are designed in a resilient way. “Health facilities must be built in areas that are not hazard-prone using materials and designs that can withstand disasters. There must also be enough supplies and equipment, and enough personnel with the capacity to respond to the needs of the communities, with buffer stock for emergencies. A good Disaster Risk Reduction Management Plan for Health at all levels is therefore needed,” she said. #